"The Green Venice": an inner canal seen from a flatboat.
Quay at the small town of Coulon.

The Marais Poitevin (pronounced [maʁɛ pwatvɛ̃]) or Poitevin Marsh is a large area of marshland in western France. The name means "Poitou's Marsh" or the "Marsh of the Poitou region". It is a remnant of the former Gulf of Poitou [fr]. The western zone near the sea (about two-thirds of the area) is called the "dry marsh" (or "dried marsh") and is used for farming and breeding. The eastern zone, called the "wet marsh", is a maze of islets crisscrossed by picturesque canals now used for tourist boating. It is nicknamed The Green Venice (la Venise Verte)[1].


With an area of 970 square kilometres (370 sq mi)[2], it is the largest marsh on France's Atlantic coast and the second largest of the whole country, after the Camargue.[3]. Extending across three departments (Vendée, Deux-Sèvres, and Charente-Maritime), it is situated west of Niort, north of La Rochelle, and south of Fontenay-le-Comte.

The Marais Poitevin was declared a Regional Natural Park (French: Parc naturel régional) in 1979, but it lost that status in 1997 as intensive agricultural development around the Marsh meant the unique character of the region was endangered, leaving only a core Interregional Park (Parc Interrégional du Marais poitevin) of 185 square kilometres (71 sq mi). Attempts to get back the full Park label started in 2002, leading to a new chart being proposed in 2006; accepted by the local authorities, it was rejected in late 2008 by the government due to a perceived "juridical fragility".

Tourism includes boating in traditional barques, which is a form of punting. There are several piers (French: embarcadères), from which boats can be hired. The myriad canals are covered in green duckweed (hence the Green Venice nickname) and the drained marshland is home to a varied fauna.

The Marais Poitevin is also the most important area of angelica cultivation in France.


The marsh sits on a limestone plateau, dating from the Jurassic period[4], which covered much of the former province of Poitou. The Würm glaciation, ca. 24,000–10,000 YBP, caused significant marine regression and the recovery of much river erosion (a watershed of ca. 535,000 ha), thus exposing the marl-limestone formations. Upon such mounds like the villages of Maillezais, Saint-Michel-en-l'Herm, and Marans.


See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "The Marais Poitevin". Rough Guides. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  2. ^ Rushby, Kevin. "Canoeing and cycling in France's Marais Poitevin wetlands". The Guardian. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  3. ^ "Marais poitevin". Visit Poitou Charantes. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  4. ^ "HISTORY OF THE MARAIS POITEVIN". Archived from the original on 2009-02-17.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

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Coordinates: 46°20′N 0°40′W / 46.333°N 0.667°W / 46.333; -0.667