Gérardmer and Xonrupt through the ages
Pictures of the Valley of the Lakes
Share a thousand emotions !
With its own special character and clearly defined seasons, the Lake Valley opens up an amazing natural diversity to marvel visitors. In the heart of one of the largest pine forests in France, each path reveals a continual renewal.
In fir tree country
At the crossroads of latin and Germanic worlds, the Vosges are among the most forested departments in France. It is in the heart of this immense forest that Gérardmer, Xonrupt, and the valley of the Lakes have flourished.
From hillside forests, below 600m altitude, to mountain forests, and finally reaching the subalpine forests at the treeline of the High-Vosges, hikers will come across beech, fir, spruce, rowan, sycamore trees...
Ancient fir trees 40m tall, veritable natural monuments, could tell nearly three centuries of history ... Invent your own version ...
For further information about the surrounding nature of Gérardmer, Xonrupt and the valley of the Lakes, visit the website Parc Naturel Régional des Ballons des Vosges
In harmony with the forest
Through the ages, the inhabitants of the valley of the Lakes have lived in harmony with the forest. Up until the XVIth century, the latter provided wood for heating and building houses as well as part of food for their animals.
Then came the era when the forest resounded with the shouts of « bequillons »(lumberjacks) et « sagards » (sawyers). This was the era of "haut fers", the ancestors of our modern hydraulically powered sawmills, the era of "schlittes" (huge wooden sledges) laden with wood, hurtling down the slopes. Nowadays, chalet builders, modern sawmills and creative artisans (clogmakers, carvers, wooden toy makers….)continue to make a living from the forest.
Discover the peat bogs
The surrounding area of the Valley of the Lakes houses a number of peat bogs, such as the « Grand Etang » in the northern part of the “Bas Rupts”. A junction between land and water milieux, they form wonderful living reservoirs and play an essential role in the water cycle. These peat bogs were formed about 10,000 years ago.
At the « Grand Etang », the Lorraine Conservation Society has created a learning path and regularly organizes guided walks. Information at the Gérardmer-Xonrupt Tourist Office.
For further information, visit the website Conservatoire des Sites Lorrains
Discover the high pastures
Above 1,000m, forest gradually gives way to pastures, called "chaumes", following the rounded summitsof the "Ballons". Here bilberries,cranberries,arnica,great gentians,Vosgien pansies and even wild orchids grow.
Numerous rare animal and plant species such as the “Grand Tétras”,Andromède, Canneberge, Linaigrette, thrive , protected thanks to the Tanet and Gazon du Faing reserve, run by the Lorraine Conservation Society.
The high pastures are also superb grazing. As soon as the snow melts, the "marcaire" (farmer of these pastures) goes up with his herd of cows. Today, numerous farm-inns, former "marcairies", serve the traditional meal based on smoked meat, “tofailles” (steamed potatoes), Munster-Géromé cheese and bilberry tart.
A real paradise !
The forest is home to game : stags, deer, wild boar. In fact, it's more than possible to come face to face with one of them on a forest path ! Foxes, badgers and mink also inhabit the forest ... and a few rare protected species such as the Grand Tétras (a kind of grouse) or the lynx.
Hovering in the azure sky, peregrine falcons and buzzards observe you whilst rivers and lakes abound with a variety of fish : trout, barbell, char.. which delight herons and kingfishers.
On the summits, chamois happily jump from rock to rock, mocking climbers and bounding in front of children !
The « Tétras » emblem of the High Vosges
A species threatened with extinction, the "Grand Tétras" is bound to the primary forest which was omnipresent in the past.
The « Grand Tétras » is a very territorial species and depends on virtually untouched mountain environment and especially peace and quiet for its survival.
Nowadays access is denied to several places in order to preserve the "Grand Tétras". To allow it to survive in the Vosges, please respect these areas.
The Lispach and Ténine peat bogs
The Lispach and Ténine peat bogs in La Bresse, are classified « natural and vulerable spaces” in the heart of the Vosges.
« La Roche du Diable » Devil's Rock
To the Col de la Schlucht, gives an amazing view of the Xonrupt-Longemer valley and notably Longemer and Retournemer lakes.
The « Route des Crêtes »
The « Route des Crêtes », open from May to November according to weather conditions, will take you more than 80 km along the Vosges "ballons" (mountains), from the Bonhomme Pass in the north to the Grand Ballon in the south. It will enable you to discover one of the most beautiful routes in the High Vosges and admire the characteristic scenery, the high altitude lakes, the wildlife. This road varies from 940 to 1,400m altitude and the GR5 runs parallel along the summits, giving hikers a unique walk.
The Schlucht Pass
This is an important site linking the Vosges to Alsace and is the highest pass in the Vosges, culminating at a height of 1,139m. It is the starting point of numerous paths for hikers (GR5, “sentier des roches”) and is crossed by the famous "Route des Crêtes" which links the Bonhomme pass to the Grand Ballon.
The « Saut des Cuves »
The « Saut des Cuves » is the site of the unmissable waterfalls in the Lake Valley. It is a natural site where the Vologne river cascades among great blocks of granite in successive falls. The "Saut des Cuves" waterfall is the biggest. A short distance away, you can find the "Pont des Fées" (fairy bridge), rebuilt in 1782, Charlemagne Stone, whose legend tells that the emperor's horse left its imprint, as well as the Marie-Louise islands.
This lake, a peat bog, of an area of 10 hectars, is situated at an altitude of 800m. A clear and easy path allows you to walk around it. This path is enriched with information panels about the formation and wildlife of peat bogs. Droséra ‘protected insectivorous plant) grow on the edge of the lake.
Retournemer, an unspoiled lake surrounded by mountains at the end of the Lake Valley, at the foot of the Hohneck. It is glacial in origine and only walking around the lake is allowed.
Gérardmer Lake is the largest natural lake in the Vosges . It is at a height of 666m, has an area of 115 hectars, a length of 2,200m, a maximum width of 750m, a maximum depth of 38.40m and a volume of 19,510,000 cubic metres.
Longemer Lake, "Mirror of a thousand Reflections", is a long lake at the foot of the Vosges mountains (76 h), with changing light. A fisherman's paradise, but also an enjoyable walk. Unspoiled and located in a classified site, it forms one of three of the lakes in the Lake Valley.
Blanchemer shares the same area as that of the Lac des Corbeaux here you will find peace and quiet out of the tourist season. You can fish Faro trout, perch, tench, roach and carp. It proves to be a floating peat bog which can be dangerous to reach but which offers a refuge appreciated by perch and trout.
The « Lac des Corbeaux » Crows' Lake
This is a magnificent stretch of water in a former glacial cirque surrounded by a beautiful pine forest providing varied fishing.
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