The Baux outcrop & the valley
The Baux outcrop is one of the last foothills of the Alpilles mountains. It is from this formation that the site draws its name, the Provençal word bau meaning craggy cliff. This cliff with sheer drops of 20 to 45 metres provided natural protection for the Château against an attack from the plain. What is more, it is preceded on this side by several smaller outcrops which, in the heyday of the Château des Baux, housed small fortresses that helped to defend the territory with their guards: Mont Paon, which still has some interesting remains, Barbegal barring the passage to the west, and two fortified castles to the left, which were the origins of the valley towns Mouriès and Castillon, now Paradou. The lookouts were able to announce imminent danger by communicating from one tower to the next.
Further south, behind the hills, the valley was crossed by the via Aurelia, an ancient Roman road. Beyond the hills towards the plain, behind Maussane and Paradou, the land was very marshy. These marshes provided the village with additional means of subsistence, but they were also a source of disease. Little by little, channels were dug and they were drained.
In the distance, the lakes, like the one at Vaccarès, are old branches of the Rhône. In clear weather, you can make out the Camargue, France’s most important zoological and botanical nature reserve.
The Crau plain stretches out to the left. Its dry part is host to exceptional flora and fauna, while its irrigated part is home to flocks of merino sheep which migrate to the Alps in the summer.
Finally, between the hills, it is possible to make out some small patches of red earth. This is all that remains of the bauxite quarries, a mineral used to make aluminium that takes its name from Les Baux.