Massif Central

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Massif Central

Massif Central (mäsēf´ säNträl´) [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.

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