Exceptional natural sites in the Loire Valley

With marshes, water meadows, forests and natural lakes, there is no shortage of natural sites in the Loire Valley! Some have been listed as Regional and National Nature Reserves, all with the same aim: to preserve the outstanding natural diversity. These fabulous locations are the natural habitat of many plant and animal species and can also be visited.

National and Regional Nature Reserves

In the Saint-Mesmin National Nature Reserve at Pointe de Courpain you will spot European beavers. This site, situated where the Loiret and Loire rivers meet, is an ideal home for its 500 species of flowers, which you can admire all along the nature trail.
The Loire Valley also has a large number of Regional Nature Reserves. In the Basses-Brosses et Chevalleries Reserve near Angers, you will see a wide range of different landscapes including hedges, natural lakes and water meadows. More than 300 plant species grow here, such as snakes' head fritillary, a plant which loves damp soils. Home to nearly 100 species of birds and even more insect species, you will see kingfishers, tawny owls and northern shovelers.
The Tourbière de Logné Reserve, a wetland area of great ecological importance, is located 20 kilometres from Nantes. It is rich in plant life, with a dozen protected species such as purple marshlocks, as well as carnivorous plants and rare moss species. 

The Etang du Pont de Fer Reserve, a stretch of water blocaded by a dam, is another outstanding wetland area. On the coast, the Pointe Saint-Gildas Reserve is a patchwork of natural habitats including cliffs, grasslands, moors and dunes.

Lakes, marshlands, water meadows... other areas of natural interest

>> Wetland areas of great natural diversity
Several other wetland areas are also worth the detour, such as the Audubon Marshland near Nantes. This vast, unspoilt marshy site situated along the Loire attracts corncrakes, grey herons and storks.
Meanwhile Rillé Lake (250 hectares) has an observatory for bird-watching: over 250 species have already taken up residence here! You can take a tour of the lake thanks to a botanical path with explanatory panels.
Lastly, in the Loire itself, Canes Island in the Guilly meander has around 505 species of plants (such as chervil buttercup) and 6 species of amphibians (such as the crested newt). Here you may also encounter grey herons, beavers and numerous insects living among unspoilt typical Loire Valley countryside. Not forgetting the yearly migration of the Solognote sheep!
>> Discovering Loire Valley forest areas
Thorny (pine) and deciduous trees (oaks, beeches, wild cherry, etc.) grow alongside each other in the Gâvre State Forest, which extends over 4,500 hectares. With the arrival of Autumn, it is a lovely place in which to a walk along its nature trails and for doing a spot of mushroom collecting.
Also worth discovering is Chinon Forest, where deciduous trees, softwoods and sundews, strange insectivorous plants, flourish. It is an unspoilt and strategic place for stag watching (from April to October) or for listening to rutting calls during the autumn mating season. 
You can also go deer watching in the Domaine National de Chambord Wildlife Reserve. Incidentally, it is not surprising to find such a rich variety of game here since the Château of Chambord was the hunting home of King Francis I. Track (with your eyes only!) roe deer, stags or Ospreys. The Estate also offers park visits in a 4x4 as well as nature activities such as listening to stag rutting calls or opportunities too learn about the different trees. There are forest guides on hand for all activities!
At Domaine du Ciran, you can explore observatory trails and admire the forests and natural lakes with their smaller-sized inhabitants, such as roe deer and birds of prey. A nice overview of the Sologne!