Land and Resources, Coastline
marshy lowland, Rhone delta, safe anchorages, Maritime Alps, sandy coast
The coastline of mainland France, about 3,430-km (2,130-mi) long, is highly varied. A marshy lowland prevails along the northern coast, and many areas must be artificially drained. Moving west, along the English Channel, these lowlands give way to the cliffs of Normandy and then to the rugged, ragged coast of Brittany. Stretching south of Brittany, a low, sandy coast meets the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mediterranean coast is equally varied. In the Riviera district to the east, the Maritime Alps plunge abruptly into the sea, forming one of the most scenic areas of Europe. West of the Riviera, the coastline gives way to the large, marshy delta of the Rhone. West of the Rhone delta, a coastal lowland dotted with wetlands stretches all the way to the Pyrenees.
The French coast has relatively few natural harbors. The northern coast, along the English Channel and the North Sea, is broken by a number of promontories, river estuaries, and minor indentations, few of which provide safe anchorages. The harbor at Le Havre, at the mouth of the Seine, is the one outstanding exception. A number of harbors in the north have been formed by the construction of breakwaters, including the seaport at Cherbourg. Along the Atlantic coast, important harbors are at Brest, Lorient, and Saint-Nazaire. The best natural harbors in France are on the Mediterranean and include the harbors of Marseille, Toulon, and Nice.
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