Created in 2013, the French Haut-Rhône nature reserve is located on the upper alluvial plain of the River Rhône.

Presentation and map of this exceptional site on the heights of the Rhône River in France, between the departments of Ain, Isère and Savoie.

The Haut-Rhône nature reserve

The French Haut-Rhône Nature Reserve is a remarkable protected area located in the north-eastern part of France in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region, extending over part of the upper Rhône river.

This nature reserve is characterised by its exceptional biodiversity, its diverse river landscapes and its ecological and cultural importance. It plays a crucial role in preserving its natural habitats and resident species, while offering unique opportunities for scientific research, environmental education and sustainable tourism.

Created in 1985, the French Haut-Rhône Nature Reserve was extended in 1996 to further protect this unique ecosystem. Since then, it has been an integral part of the Natura 2000* network, contributing to the preservation of threatened habitats and species on a European scale.

The 27th nature reserve in the Rhône-Alpes region before its merger with Auvergne, the nature reserve extends over 1707 hectares at the confluence of the River Guiers.

The French Haut-Rhône nature reserve stretches for 25 kilometres from the Champagneux dam and the Malarage natural defile, forming a unique alluvial forest with numerous branches or lônes, gradually channelled over the centuries.

This protection zone is mainly made up of :

  • The old Saugey meander,
  • The Evieu forest,
  • The public river domain of the Rhône and the adjoining lônes,
  • All islands downstream of the Evieu bridge and upstream of the Cordon bridge
  • The confluence of the rivers Guiers, Bièvre, Gland, Save and Huert
  • The Malarage parade.

The French Haut-Rhône nature reserve plays a key role in preserving regional and global biodiversity. It is home to vital areas for migratory species, helping to maintain animal and plant populations across the continent.

French Upper Rhône nature reserve
Brégnier-Cordon canal / Wikimedia

A treasure trove of biodiversity

The French Haut-Rhône Nature Reserve covers a portion of the course of the Rhône, including a mosaic of natural habitats such as wetlands, alluvial forests, lônes (dead arms of the river), fluvial islands and gravel banks. These ecosystems support a rich and varied fauna and flora, making this region particularly valuable for the conservation of biodiversity in France.

In terms of wildlife, the reserve is home to a multitude of animal species, some of which are rare or threatened. Birds find refuge here, with red kites and whiskered terns among the emblematic species. The wetlands also provide an ideal habitat for amphibians such as the great crested newt.

Another emblematic species is the European beaver, which has played a key role in the renaturalisation of the river. Others are rare and threatened, such as the osprey and various species of heron. The wetlands and waters of the Rhône are also home to a variety of fish and aquatic invertebrates, contributing to the ecological richness of the reserve.

The French Haut-Rhône is also rich in flora, with a wide variety of habitats including alluvial forests, wet meadows and dry grasslands. Here you can admire wild orchids such as the goat orchid, as well as carnivorous plants such as the round-leaved sundew.

European beaver swimming / Wikimedia

Activities and discovery

As well as focusing on conservation, the French Haut-Rhône Nature Reserve offers opportunities for environmentally-friendly recreational activities. Visitors can enjoy hiking trails, wildlife observation, canoeing or kayaking on the Rhône, and educational guided tours. These activities allow visitors to discover the beauty and diversity of the reserve while respecting its fragility and its primary vocation of conservation.

The reserve offers a number of hiking trails, allowing visitors to explore its different ecosystems. The trails are dotted with interpretation panels to help you learn more about the local flora and fauna, and the measures being taken to preserve this exceptional environment.

As well as walks, the reserve offers educational activities for children and adults, such as introductory workshops in botany and ornithology. Guided tours are also organised to discover the secrets of this unique natural area.

Evieu bridge, French Upper Rhône R. Quesada
Pont d’Evieu / R. Quesada

Map of the French Upper Rhône

Between the departments of Ain,Isère and Savoie, here is the map of the French Haut-Rhône nature reserve.

The municipalities concerned are:

Communes of Bregnier-Cordon, Murs-et-Gelignieux, Champagneux, Saint-Genix-sur-Guiers, Brangues, Saint-Benoit, le Bouchage, les Avenieres, Aoste, Groslee, Lhuis, Saint-victor-de-morestel, Briord and Creys-mepieu.

The nature reserve

To find out more about the protected area of the French Haut-Rhône, here is the official page on the national site of France’s nature reserves:

Web link

In connection with the Rhône river

  • Nature reserve in Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes (French)
  • What is Natura 2000? (French)
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