Ten minutes by bike from the Old Port, on a dirt road, a butterfly invites us to follow it and guides us to a wooden boardwalk that winds its way through the heart of the wetland... The song of the nightingale, the tracks of egrets in the mud, the flight of swans overhead: here we are in the heart of the Marais de Tasdon, a great way to reconnect with nature.
A natural heritage in the heart of La Rochelle
The Marais de Tasdon is a vast natural space covering more than 82 hectares at the gates to central La Rochelle. This countryside in the city is the perfect place for a bucolic stroll with major environmental interest.
A leap back in history is required to understand the role of this nature reserve…
In the 12th century, this area was directly connected to the nearby ocean: it was a salt marsh whose activity lasted until the interwar period. Salt production then ceased and the site was abandoned. Bordered by extended neighbourhoods, it dried up and lost its direct link to the Atlantic, modifying the natural habitat of many plant and animal species.
Launched in 2019, a vast ecological project enabled the renaturation of this wetland, connecting it to the Moulinette Stream for freshwater irrigation and the ocean for its saltwater supply.
The Marais de Tasdon is therefore a wetland supplied with both fresh and salt water! Amazing, isn't it? A balance between brackish, fresh and salt waters, which pass through the locks, islets, gates and canals to ensure the sustainability of its biodiversity.
A place where young and old, residents and travellers alike, can connect with nature during a walk close to the Old Port!
Nature safari in the marsh: observing birds and biodiversity
Bird lovers: binoculars at the ready! The site is a rich observation area with more than 150 species listed. Swallows, owls, bats, swans, herons, shorebirds, egrets and avocets have all made their home here.
Located between the Rochefort and Poitevin marshes and the Yves and Aiguillon nature reserves, Marais de Tasdon is home to migrating birds that take refuge here for the winter. Barnacle and other geese and shelducks are among the birds you can see at this time of year.
A true immersion in nature which also includes the characteristic flora of the marshes, with 350 listed plant species.
Along the paths you’ll see horse parsley, blackthorn, teasel and mustard. In humid areas, fresh water provides a home to rushes, reeds, tamarisks and bulrushes. While the salt water is perfect for samphire, sea beet and obione to grow.
During your walk, keep an eye out: this wild vegetation near the water also provides refuge for otters, rabbits, tree frogs and foxes!
A responsible hike through the Marais de Tasdon
You can discover this ecosystem during a hike, a mix of paths and boardwalks, over 10 km of managed trails so as not to disturb life in the marsh.
With family, alone or with friends, wind your way through the heart of this fragile space. The dirt road extends into wooden walkways on stilts, allowing a non-intrusive way to cross the wetlands. The high point of your walk: the observation tower which offers a view over the whole site.
Here, you enter the kingdom of nature, and so that your country walk doesn’t disturb its inhabitants, please respect a few rules:
- Leave your bike at the bike racks at the entrance to the site: access is for pedestrians only.
- Don’t bring dogs or pets.
- Don’t leave the marked path.
- Don't feed the wild animals.
- To make sure you leave no trace of your visit, take your rubbish home with you.
Do you want to know more about the marsh? Located on the site, the Relais Nature de la Moulinette is an educational space focused on raising environmental awareness. Watch out for the schedule of events, as activities are regularly available to help you discover more about the wetland!
Practical info: how to get to the Marais de Tasdon?
The Marais de Tasdon is a large, protected area located between Aytré and La Rochelle.
From the Old Port, you can get there on foot, by bike and even by bus!
Go along Quai Maubec and cross the railway bridge to the Parc des Expositions. Pass it to join the cycle and pedestrian path towards Villeneuve-les-Salines, and there you are at the entrance to this wetland, marked out by the Moulinette Canal.