Massif Central

Massif Central

[ma-seef sahn-tral]
Massif Central [Fr.,=central highlands], great mountainous plateau, c.33,000 sq mi (85,470 sq km), S central France, covering almost a sixth of the surface of the country. The chief water divide of France, it borders on the Paris basin in the north, the Rhône valley and basin in the east and south, and the Aquitanian basin in the west. The core of the Massif is the volcanic mass of the Auvergne Mts. that rises to the Massif's highest point, Puy de Sancy (6,187 ft/1,886 m). The Cévennes limit the Massif Central on the southeast and the Causses form its southwest border. The Massif Central is the most rugged and geologically diverse region within France. It is also France's most varied region climatically. All four chief rivers of France (the Seine, Loire, Rhône, and Garonne) receive tributaries from the Massif Central; the Loire, Dordogne, and Charente originate there. Sheep and goat grazing, dairying, cattle raising, and, in the fertile valleys, agriculture are the chief occupations of the region. Kaolin is mined. Hydroelectricity is produced along the western edge of the Massif Central. Clermont-Ferrand, Le Creusot, Limoges, Saint-Étienne, and Roanne are important industrial centers.

The Massif Central (Occitan: Massís Central / Massís Centrau) is an elevated region in south-central France, consisting of mountains and plateaus.

Subject to vulcanism that has subsided in the last 10,000 years, these central mountains are separated from the Alps by a deep north-south cleft created by the Rhône River and known in French as the sillon rhodanien (literally "the furrow of the Rhône").

Long a barrier to communication, the opening of the A75 motorway has not only made north-south travel easier but it has also opened up the Massif Central itself.


The following départements are generally considered as part of the Massif Central: Allier, Ardèche, Aveyron, Cantal, Corrèze, Creuse, Haute-Loire, Haute-Vienne, Loire, Lot, Lozère, and Puy-de-Dôme.

The following régions are part of the Massif Central: Auvergne, Limousin. Part of the following régions are in the Massif Central: Languedoc-Roussillon, Midi-Pyrénées, and Rhône-Alpes.

The largest cities are Clermont-Ferrand and Saint-Étienne.


The Massif Central is a distinct physiographic province of the larger Central European Uplands division. The entire region contains the largest concentration of extinct volcanoes in the world with approximately 450 volcanoes. One strip alone running north to south and less than 60 square miles contains 115 of them.


Mountain ranges, with notable individual mountains, are (roughly north-to-south):

Plateaux include


See also

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