Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes

Vallée des Saints in Boudes, a natural site known as Colorado Auvergnat

This page was updated on: Friday, January 10, 2020 at: 11:41 am

Vallée of Saints, a land of red earth

The Vallée des Saints is not an ancient sacred place, as its name might suggest!

It could, though, as it lies in the heart of the land of the Arverni, one of the most powerful Gaulish federations.

But this valley, located at the southern tip of the vast Plain of Limagne, simply owes its name to its geological richness.

This geographical enclave, known as Lembron, is an area of red earth dotted with astonishing geological formations such as circuses, cliffs and hoodoos.

The latter obviously triggered the fertile imagination of a geologist who studied them in the 19th century, as he indeed compared them to a procession of hooded monks.

The Saints went marching in the valley...

The site’s geological richness and the natural environment it produced enabled La Vallée des Saints to be recognised as a natural sensitive area (ENS) by the General Council of Puy-de-Dôme.

The site includes the Vallon des Fosses, Cirque des Mottes and a mineral spring, known as Source de Bard.

There might not be any holy presence in the valley, however, you could easily believe that the gods contributed to its creation!

Indeed, its fertile red soil favours viticulture and produces one of the best wines of Auvergne (and oldest wine of France!) the Côte d'Auvergne Boudes!

A little bit of geology

However, this is where the divine stops and geology takes over.

I won’t go into complex explanations, but this is basically what happened.

The formation of the Vallée des Saints doesn’t go back quite to the dawn of time, however, we still have to go back 70 to 40 million years.

Central France then enjoyed a warm and humid equatorial climate that evolved in a dry and hot tropical climate.

This gradual change triggered the formation of clay soils, rich in iron oxide and aluminum.

Then, between 40 and 8 million years ago, the region of Limagne collapsed.

The vast depression it created (Plaine de la Limagne), filled with water.

Sediments of marl, limestone and sandstone accumulated over the millennia.

They were then covered by basalt streams during the eruption of the volcanoes of Auvergne.

Wind, rain and frost eroded these rocks of various densities, thus creating amazing geological formations.

Among those are the hoodoos, columns of tender rock crowned by a hard rock!

The oxidation and alteration of the various minerals, which these columns contained, produced an incredible array of colours.

Clay mixed with iron oxide created red and purple; hydroxide iron yellow; chlorite green and kaolin creamy-white.

The 23 hoodoos in the Vallée des Saints range from 10m to 30m of height and are quite spectacular.

The valley is naturally compared to the Grand Canyon, and is called Colorado Auvergnat.

That said, the site is very fragile as erosion constantly weakens it.

Source de Bard

The Source de Bard is located in the heart of the Vallée des Saints.

Ancient legends referred to a source buried under a landslide.

In 1882, the site was then planted with a vineyard and the accumulation of soil allowed only a thin stream of water to resurface in the open air.

The vineyard owner, Mr. Augier, dug at a depth of 1.3m and found an antique stone basin of red gneiss that collected the water.

The minerals had calcified the edges, but it was intact.

However, the discovery didn’t stop there!

Indeed, 67 Roman coins bearing the effigies of the Roman emperors from the 1st to the 2nd century AD, laid at the bottom of the basin and allowed the source to be dated.

This source is still the property of the Augier family who joined the Regional Conservatory for the protection of the natural and cultural heritage of the Vallée of Saints.

And if you wonder: the name Bard has nothing to do with the site; it’s simply the name of the nearby hamlet.

Finally, here's another of Mother Nature's geological marvels: Luberon’s ocher quarries in the village of Roussillon in Provence

Department of Puy-de-Dôme - Boudes - Auvergne
Coordinates: Lat 45.454507 - Long 3.170176

Picturesque village of Auzon, Petite Cité de Caractère in Auvergne

November 15 2019

Auzon, Petite Cité de Caractère in Auvergne

Auzon, a picturesque medieval town of Auvergne boasts an exceptional heritage that earned it the ranking of Petite Cité de Caractère
The Pont du Diable's largest arch - Saint-André-de-Chalencon i

March 17 2019

Pont du Diable medieval bridge in Chalencon

The Lord of Chalencon built the Pont du Diable – Devil’s Bridge in the 10th century to ease the transport of goods between his castle and the Rhône Valley
Chateau de Herisson

March 14 2019

Herisson, a medieval walled village ranked ‘small town of character’

Herisson, a picturesque medieval village nestled at the foot of the vestiges of the castle of the Dukes of Bourbon and ranked 'small city of character'
Puy de Sancy - Les Monts Dore

March 11 2019

Les Monts Dore, ancient volcanoes of the Massif Central

Les Monts Dore, a group of ancient volcanoes in the heart of the Massif Central, whose highest peak, Puy de Sancy, is France’s highest volcano

Sign up to our newsletter

Travel France Online will use the information you provide on this form to keep in touch with you and to provide updates via our newsletter. By selecting the boxes on the form you confirm your acceptance to receive our newsletter.

You can change your mind at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link in the footer of any email you receive from us, or by contacting us at admin@travelfranceonline.com

We will treat your information with respect. For more information please visit our privacy policy page