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Landes De Gascogne

LANDES DE GASCOGNE, an extensive natural region of south-western France, also known simply as "Landes". It has an area of 5400 sq. miles, and occupies three-quarters of the department of Landes, half of that of Gironde, and some 175,000 acres of Lot-et-Garonne. The Landes, formerly a vast tract of moorland and marsh, now consist chiefly of fields and forests of pines. They form a plateau, shaped like a triangle, the base of which is the Atlantic coast while the apex is situated slightly west of Nerac (Lot-et-Garonne). Its limits are, on the S. the river Adour; on the E. the hills of Armagnac, Eauzan, Condomois, Agenais and Bazadais; and on the N.E. the Garonne, the hills of Medoc and the Gironde. The height of the plateau ranges in general from 130 to 260 ft.; the highest altitude (498 ft.) is found in the east near Baudignan (department of Landes), from which point there is a gradual slope towards north, south, east and west. The soil is naturally sterile. It is composed of fine sand resting on a subsoil of tufa (alias) impermeable by water; for threequarters of the year, consequently, the waters, settling on the almost level surface and unable to filter through, used to transform the country into unwholesome swamps, which the Landesats could only traverse on stilts. About the middle of the 18th century an engineer, Francois Chambrelent, instituted a scheme of draining and planting to remedy these evils. As a result about 1600 m. of ditches have been dug which carry off superficial water either to streams or to the lakes which fringe the landes on the west, and over 1,600,000 acres have been planted with maritime pines and oaks. The coast, for a breadth of about 4 m., and over an area of about 225,000 acres, is bordered by dunes, in ranges parallel to the shore, and from 100 to 300 ft. in height. Driven by the west wind, which is most frequent in these parts, the dunes were slowly advancing year by year towards the east, burying the cultivated lands and even the houses. Nicolas Thomas Bremontier, towards the end of the 18th century, devised the plan of arresting this scourge by planting the dunes with maritime pines. Upwards of 210,000 acres have been thus treated. In the south-west, cork trees take the place of the pines. To prevent the formation of fresh dunes, a "dune littorale" has been formed by means of a palisade. This barrier, from 20 to 30 ft. high, presents an obstacle which the sand cannot cross. On the eastern side of the dunes is a series of lakes (Hourtin et Carcans, Lacanau, Cazau or Sanguinet, Biscarrosse, Aureilhan, St Julien, Leon and Soustons) separated from the sea by the heaping up of the sand. The salt water has escaped by defiltration, and they are now quite fresh. The Basin of Arcachon, which lies midway between the lakes of Lacanau and Cazau, still communicates with the ocean, the current of the Leyre which flows into it having sufficient force to keep a passage open.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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