Located in the upper Cévennes, the Aigoual is an intrusive granite massif that pierced through the shale 300 million years ago. Culminating at 1,567 m in altitude, it is connected by ridges of converging micro-granite veins to the other massif of the Causses and Cévennes Property, Mont Lozère (1,699 m).
Its smooth summit offers vast expanses structured in a broad honeycomb pattern, where herds of cows or sheep from the valley spend the summer, sometimes coming up the droveways which can be clearly seen from the summit. Indeed, agricultural and especially pastoral activities are alive and well there today, and contribute to the conservation of the living cultural landscapes as recognised by UNESCO.
The summit of the Aigoual is known for its extreme weather conditions, with very low temperatures in winter, almost constant winds and heavy, abundant rainfall: up to 4,000 mm in some years! This heavy rain supplies many rivers in the Cévennes. The image of Mont-Aigoual is often associated with its Observatory, France’s last remaining inhabited meteorological station in the mountains. It opened in 1894, and nowadays 150,000 visitors per year flock there to enjoy wonderful panoramic views. Indeed, on a clear day, you can see around thirteen departments of France, Mont-Blanc, the Alps, the Mediterranean Sea and the Pyrenees from the station’s towers.
Today, the Aigoual massif is a wooded mountain with lovely pine, spruce and fir tree forests, mainly managed by the ONF although it was not always thus.
Indeed, due to excessive grazing in the 19th century, the slopes
of the Aigoual were devoid of vegetation, which led to serious floods. This in turn destroyed the business of the windmills and spinning mills, and caused Bordeaux harbour to become silted up with sliding earth and rocks.
To combat this gully erosion, a young Guard General of Water and Forests named Georges Fabre was put in charge of restoring woodland to the Aigoual with the help of the local population. In 1887, he launched the project to create the Observatory, an experimental forest meteorological station, and its arboretum.
Today, the forests offer a much appreciated sanctuary for many animal species such as the mouflon, black woodpecker and several owl species.
See the other geographic areas :