The name Morvan comes from the Celtic: Mar = black and Vand = mountains. The park was established in 1970 and comprises 117 member municipalities. The park covers areas in all four departments of Burgundy: Nièvre, Saône-et-Loire, Yonne and Cote d'Or. In the west and north it borders on the valleys of Bazois Auxois and in the south and east to the plains of Charolais and Autun. Since the last reclassification in 2008, the park covers an area of 290 900 ha, or 9% of the total area of Burgundy. It has 51,357 inhabitants (2006).
The Morvan has a rich ecosystem: a combination of forests, farmland, hedgerows and rivers. However, the biosphere is threatened by pollution, uprooting hedges (which are a haven for many species of animals) and damage to hardwood forests.
The establishment of the Morvan Regional Natural Park with 64 participating municipalities was ratified on October 16, 1970. In 1975 Le Maison du Parc was established in Saint Brisson in a complex of buildings, including a castle and its outbuildings, built in 1802 and 1803 by an English architect. From here the park is managed. In addition to the administrative services the complex is home for the park's tourist office, a museum of the resistance in the Morvan during the second world war as well as a network of five houses forming the museum of the Morvan: la Maison des Hommes et des paysages. In 1997 the number of participating municipalities expanded to 94 and in 2008 to 117. The main objective for the park is conservation, control and development of the natural landscape in which tourism is promoted with respect to the local equilibrium.
The Morvan is a mountainous area that is actually an offshoot of the Massif Central. It consists mainly out of granite rock. The highest peak is the Haut-Folin with a height of 901 meters, followed by Mont Preneley of 855 meters. The Mont Beuvray, with its 821 meters and the excavated ancient Celtic town of Bibracte, is among the high peaks. From north to south the Morvan has four areas: Lower Morvan (Bas-Morvan), Hill Morvan (Haut-Morvan Colliné), High Morvan (Haut-Morvan Montagnard) and the slightly undulating country of Luzy. Especially the Haut-Morvan Montagnard is covered with large quantities of dense mixed forest interspersed with large meadow areas.
There are many water works in the Morvan, including reservoirs such as Lac de Saint-Agnan and Lac des Settons. There are some rivers such as the Yonne, the Arroux, the Cousin and the Auxois. Because industry is lacking, there is little air pollution, so you see at the Milky Way during a cloudless night.
Flora and fauna
The Morvan has a rich flora and fauna. In spring bloom primroses, orchids, figwort, wood anemones, wood sorrel, wild hyacinth, wild daffodil, parnassus, marsh lousewort, cow-wheat, stachys, etc. The spindle, honeysuckle, raspberry , blackberry (edible) and plenty of wild strawberry are widespread! Autumn is the ideal season for many species of mushrooms and fungi.
Birds find a paradise: buzzards, hawks, falcons, harriers, kites, even the serpent eagle and osprey circling high in the sky in search of their prey... Many owl species can be found here. Rare birds such as hops, red partridge, kingfisher, dipper, crossbill, flycatcher, hawfinch and ortolan can be observed. To make birdwatchers more enthusiastic: buntings, all kinds of swallows, woodpeckers, chickadees, nuthatch, wren, common redstart, finches, goldfinches and of course culture birds as thrushes, sparrows, magpies, crows and jays are frequent.
Big game such as deer, wild boars, foxes and badgers are very commonly observed. So are smaller species such as rabbits and hares, polecats, martens and weasels. Squirrels, muskrat, different types of mice, and the lesser known dormouse (a combination of a mouse and a squirrel) are anything but rare. At dusk the bats are massively active.
Le Lac des Settons is a reservoir in the course of the river Cure. The lake is rich in fish including carp, pike, trout and various whitefish. The lake lies at an altitude of 586 meters, covering 320 ha and has an average depth of 6 meters. The basin contains about 19.5 million m³ of water. The weir, consisting of granite, was put into use in 1858 by Napoleon III and is one of the oldest dams in France. The lake has an important recreational function mainly for water sports. The lake is very good to approach by car. There are no steep slopes and a boat is easy to launch into the water. There is a marina and a sailing school.
Le lac de Pannecière is a reservoir in the western part of the Morvan. The lake is 520 acres big and has a capacity of 82.5 hm3. It lies at the confluence of the Yonne and Houssière. This lake is the largest and one of the most recent major lakes of the Morvan and, as the other dams, built to prevent flooding. The lake is less touristy than Lac des Settons, but campsites, hotels and restaurants can be found. There is a lot of fish in the lake and around the lake are opportunities for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding.
Le lac de Chaumeçon is a reservoir of 135 acres on the river Chalaux. The lake has an area of 135 ha and a maximum capacity of 19 million cubic meters for the hydroelectric plant. Like the neighboring lakes Pannecière and Crescent this lake indirectly helps the dam to control the rivers Yonne and Seine to prevent floods in Paris. The lake is surrounded by a forest consisting mainly of hardwood. Upstream lies the valley of the Houssière or Oussière known for its forests of alder, ash, willow and protected balsam wood (Impatiens noli-tangere). Furthermore there are the sycamore maple (Acer pseudoplatanus) and elm (Ulmus glabra). Lake Pannecière contains the most fish of the Morvan. The most common fish are carp (Cyprinus carpio carpio) with an average weight of 9 kg. Fishing is licensed and only permitted on the right bank from April to October.
Le lac du Crescent is a lake at the confluence of the Chalaux and Cure. It extends over an area of 165 ha and has a maximum capacity of 14.25 million cubic meters to generate hydroelectric power. It provides the residents of Avallon of drinking water.
Le lac de Saint-Agnan is a reservoir on the Cousin. The dam, at the north end of the lake is 1600 m long and 16 m high. The lake has an area of 140 ha of a constant level. The water tank provides thirty surrounding villages of electricity. The bottom of the lake is mainly filled with many boulders and tree stumps.
Le lac de Chamboux is a lake of about 75 acres. It was built in 1985 and thus the youngest of the six major lakes of the Morvan.
The GRP Tour du Morvan - The Tour du Morvan is about 220 kilometers and passes the six lakes of the Morvan. You can run all kinds of variations. There are over 30 walks.
The GR13 - The park is bisected from north to south by the French trail GR13 (Sentier de Grande Randonnee 13), which is part of the European trail E5. The GR13 runs from Fontainebleau near Paris to Bourbon-Lancy in Burgundy. Slightly northeast of Vézelay it reaches the Morvan and the route runs through Saint-Père to Glux-en-Glenne. Hence the Mont Beuvray (821 meters) to the south and exits the park east of Luzy. The total length of the GR13 in the park is about 140 kilometers. The route is marked white-red.
The Tour des Remparts - A round of 6.5 kilometers along the ramparts of Bibracte. The tour is marked with yellow markers.
The itinerary Bibracte-Alesia - A cultural walk for the experienced hiker, 120 km from the excavations at Celtic Bibracte to Alesia: a route that national hero Vercingetorix and his troops have made. In Precy-sous-Thil in the northeast the route leaves the Morvan.