The important Rustrel ochre deposit and its quarries have earned the evocative name of “Colorado”.
This exceptional site, named for its variety of shapes and colors, combines the pleasure of hiking and discovering an industrial heritage. The beauty of the site is the result of the work done by 4 generations of ochre miners and farmers. The old ochre hill site stretches over 4 km. The site covers more than 100 hectares.
The people of Rustrel named the place “les Ubacs de Rustrel”. Abbot Martel, president of Alpes de Lumière, while surveying the paths with the aim of creating the GR6 hiking trail, christened the site “Provencal Colorado“, for the incredible colors that reminded him of the American canyon and because Colorado means “red” in Provencal.
50 shades of ocher …
In the heart of the Colorado, the colors unfold and enchant the eyes.
The whole range of yellows, reds, oranges, browns even some greens and mauves are represented. The landscape (cliffs, cirques, fairy chimneys and hills) is the result of the exploitation of ochre started in the 18th century in the region. Gradually abandoned, the quarries form today a grandiose site, appreciated for walks and touristic hikes.
From the ocher industry pipes, machines, settling ponds are left here and there … However, the Colorado is also an exceptional and very fragile living environment, characteristic of siliceous areas: maritime pines, heather and chestnut trees grow in abundance.
COLORADO PROVENÇAL DE RUSTREL from JACQUES ROUQUETTE on Vimeo.
During the 18th century, increasing demand for pigments in the textile industry led to intensified mining of ochres in Roussillon. Numerous quarries and ochre factories, some of which can still be seen today, were situated near the village. One example of an ochre factory, the “Usine Mathieu”, is named for the family that owned it from 1870 to 1901. It has been formed into a “Conservatoire”: a workshop serving as a museum. The quarries and factories were established in the villages of Roussillon, Villars, Gargas, Rustrel (with its Colorado provençal) and Gignac.
During the 20th century, mining techniques were modernised, which meant that more profitable ochre mines became exploitable. This resulted in a gradual closing-down of ochre mines in and around Roussillon. From the 1980s, tourism has replaced ochre industry as a source of income