You may not find this terribly rewarding unless you're included here, so this is a good time for casual and random browsers to turn back before they get too caught up in the sweep and majesty of the proceedings and can't let go.
We're talking an afternoon walk through the Ramsar Site along the banks of the mighty Rhône.
We've left from the riverside village of La Plaine, where our friend Kate lives, 13 November 2010, and we're walking up the riverside towards the power-utilities barrage, or dam, of Verbois, and back down the other side to the bridge at La Plaine. Easy game -- once we've cleared past this ugly factory thing.
Switzerland designated the shoreline around Genève, or Geneva, as a Wetland of International Importance way back in 1990, largely based on the protection of migrating waterbirds, but in 2001 the government expanded the site to include the shores of the Rhône downstream and the catchments of a few tributaries, including the Allondon. See the little Ramsar logo?
Today's itinerary, a modest one: from La Plaine on the left, over the dam upstream, down the other bank, up to the village of Cartigny, and back down across the river. It's all a great bird sanctuary, but mid-November would normally be a little too late (or a little too early) to find too many migratory birds here.
This is the Allondon. Here's the entry for this Ramsar Site from the Annotated Ramsar List:
Le Rhône genevois - Vallons de l'Allondon et de La Laire. 09/11/90; Genève; 1,929 ha; 46º12’N 006º09’E. Protected Area. A section of the Rhône River in and downstream from Geneva, including the shores of Lac Léman (Lake Geneva) and riverbanks within the city, and riverside areas of the Rhône and (following a significant site extension on 02/02/01) two small tributaries, extending from the lake southwestward to the French frontier. Habitats include reedbeds, grasslands subject to seasonal inundation, scrub and alluvial woodland. The area is of some importance for wintering waterbirds, but the key value is that it includes some of the last-remaining, relatively unmodified stretches of the Rhône in Switzerland. Given the proximity to the city, human activities within the site include walking, cycling, canoeing and rafting, and camping, and in the surrounding area, forestry, agriculture, livestock rearing, viticulture, and power generation. Ramsar site no. 506. Most recent RIS information: 2001.
We're preparing to cross the international railroad line over the Allondon.
Kristin caught up in an infinite regression of archways
-- From this point onward, there is no going back; be warned.
Waterbirds -- some or all of them are herons, we've been told.
We've spent many years selling the public on the virtues of protecting the habitats of migratory birds, but we personally can't tell the difference between a bird and a tree unless one of them is flying.
Great "signage", interpretive explanations for nature lovers all along the way
Kristin and a sentry box or something, on the Rhône
The barrage of Verbois. Lighting up the city, etc.
From the dam, a look back down the farther side of the river, and Geneva's Salève mountain in the background.
The last thing you want to see when you're walking across a dam is cracks.
Kristin scoping out our return trip down the other side of the river
The ladies' room
An impressive old house up in the village of Cartigny.
Cartigny. Some years ago, we visited friends and had dinner in a restaurant here that specialized in ostrich, kangaroo, bison, probably komodo lizard and toasted grubs too if you called ahead.
A few more ups and downs before we get back down to the river at La Plaine, just in time to buy some pastries at the local before it closes.