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Bellegarde-sur-Valserine coat of arms
Bellegarde-sur-Valserine (France)
local community Valserhône
region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
Department Ain
Arrondissement Nantua
Coordinates 46 ° 6 ′  N , 5 ° 50 ′  E Coordinates: 46 ° 6 ′  N , 5 ° 50 ′  E
Post Code 01200
Former INSEE code 01033

View of Bellegarde

Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is a former French community and today's commune Déléguée in the Ain department in the region of Auvergne Rhône-Alpes . The village in the Commune nouvelle Valserhône is the capital of the canton Bellegarde-sur-Valserine in the Arrondissement of Nantua and the seat of the municipal association Pays Bellegardien .


Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is 350  m , about 30 kilometers west-southwest of the city of Geneva (as the crow flies). The city extends in the Bellegarde basin, on the edge of the French Jura , between the mountain ranges of the Grand Crêt d'Eau (up to 1621  m ) in the east and the Plateau de Retord (around 1300  m ) in the west. The actual settlement area lies in a valley basin at the confluence of the Valserine into the Rhone . This draws a sharp curve at Bellegarde and turns south from the previously predominantly westward direction of flow.

The 15.25 square kilometer former municipal area is located in the Rhône Valley. The Rhône always forms the southern border. At first it flows deeply cut into a valley accompanied by rock walls, which opens into a basin at Bellegarde. The Valserine flows here from the north. West of the city, the Rhône changes its direction of flow abruptly to the south. It is dammed up here by the Génissiat dam to form a long stretch of standing water. Until its completion in 1948, part of the Rhône water at Bellegarde disappeared in the porous calcareous subsoil ( Pertes du Rhône ), which is why the river here was very narrow and has been easy to cross since ancient times. This place was flooded by the damming of the Rhône. The Valserine, which emerges from a gorge-like valley here, also has an infiltration point ( Pertes de la Valserine ) and a natural bridge.

To the west of the Bellegarde basin, the municipality extends over a steep slope to the Michaille plateau (around 480  m ), which lies at the foot of the Retord Jura ridge. To the east of Valserine and Rhône, the municipal area extends in a narrow strip over the steep slope to the ridge of the Sorgia and to the southern roof of the Grand Crêt d'Eau, on which the highest point of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine is reached at 1542  m . This community section is part of the nature reserve Haute Chaîne du Jura and the Regional Natural Park of Haut-Jura , with which it is associated as an official place of access.

In addition to the town itself, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine also includes various villages, hamlets and farms:

  • Arlod ( 365  m ) in the valley west of the Rhône, south of Bellegarde
  • Mussel ( 370  m ) in the valley west of the Rhône, south of Bellegarde
  • Musinens ( 440  m ) on the edge of the Michaille plateau, above Bellegarde
  • Coupy ( 400  m ) at the foot of the Grand Crêt d'Eau above the Rhône, east of Bellegarde
  • La Maladière ( 450  m ) on a ledge at the foot of the Grand Crêt d'Eau, above the Rhône
  • Vanchy ( 480  m ) on a ledge at the foot of the Grand Crêt d'Eau, above the Rhône

Neighboring municipalities of were Châtillon-en-Michaille and Lancrans in the north, Léaz in the east, Éloise and Saint-Germain-sur-Rhône in the south and Billiat and Villes in the west. The first two named today form the municipality of Valserhône with Bellegarde-sur-Valserine.


Even in Roman times , the area of ​​today's Bellegarde at the Rhône crossing was of great strategic importance. The passage was secured by a watchtower, and there was probably a small settlement here.

In the course of the Middle Ages , Musinens developed into the main settlement of today's municipality at the height northwest of the Bellegarde basin. In addition, Arlod formed its own rule in the 12th century. Bellegarde, on the other hand, was just a small hamlet that belonged to the Musinens community.

However, this changed suddenly between 1853 and 1858 with the construction of the railway line from Lyon to Geneva, which ran along the Rhône through the Bellegarde basin. By imperial decree of Napoléon III. on December 6, 1858, the parish of Musinens was renamed Bellegarde . From the middle of the 19th century, various factories were set up along the Rhône that were dependent on hydropower. This mainly included spinning mills, paper mills and sawmills. With the construction of a power station on the Valserine in 1883, Bellegarde became one of the first towns in France to have public electrical lighting.

Together with the settlement of the factories, the former hamlet quickly developed into an industrial city with numerous workers' apartments. The economic upswing lasted until the beginning of the Second World War . As the last train station in France before the Geneva free trade zone , which had existed since 1815 , Bellegarde was also a customs post. With the completion of the Génissiat dam and the damming of the Rhône in 1948, a major tourist attraction, the infiltration point of the Rhône, was flooded, resulting in a marked drop in income from tourism.

Parish church

Around 1970, Bellegarde, which was officially called Bellegarde-sur-Valserine since October 18, 1956, was able to enlarge its previously narrow urban area through two incorporations. The first incorporation in 1966 concerned Coupy. Originally the area around Coupy and Vanchy belonged to the municipality of Lancrans . Together with Confort , these two localities were separated from Lancrans in 1858 and combined in the municipality of Vanchy. In 1905 the municipality of Vanchy was renamed Coupy and in 1966 it was merged with Bellegarde-sur-Valserine. With effect from January 1, 1971, Arlod, located southwest of the industrial city, was also incorporated.


As a rapidly growing industrial city without a medieval core, Bellegarde-sur-Valserine has only a few attractions to offer. These include the parish church built in 1853, the originally Gothic- style church of Arlod, whose choir dates from the 15th century, the church of Vanchy and the castle of Musinens. Natural attractions include the Pertes de la Valserine north of the city. Here the Valserine falls with a waterfall into a rocky gorge and then disappears under the natural bridge Pont des Oules .


year Residents
1858 00.512
1908 02,450
1938 05,071
1948 05,407
1962 09,692
1968 10,833
1975 11,593
1982 11.097
1990 11,153
1999 10,846
2006 11,497
2011 11,630
2017 11,675

With 11,675 inhabitants (as of January 1, 2017), Bellegarde-sur-Valserine was one of the largest municipalities in the Ain department. Due to industrialization, the number of inhabitants increased sharply in the second half of the 19th century and at the beginning of the 20th century. After that there was stagnation, which in turn was followed by rapid growth from 1950. Bellegarde-sur-Valserine reached a peak in terms of population in the mid-1970s with around 11,600 people. As a result, there was an overall slight population decline, which led to a growth phase again at the turn of the millennium. The local residents of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine are called Bellegardien (ne) s in French .

Economy, culture and infrastructure

Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, once located in an agricultural area, is now an important industrial city. There are various large companies as well as numerous small and medium-sized businesses. The major industrial sectors currently include plastics processing, the textile industry, precision engineering workshops, printing, the manufacture of seals, food processing, the packaging industry and the construction industry. Thanks to the good transport connections, the proportion of commuters who work as cross-border commuters in the Geneva region is also steadily increasing.

The comic festival has been held annually in Bellegarde-sur-Valserine since 1995. Other cultural institutions include the Théâtre Jeanne d'Arc, the Carnival, the Musinens Castle Festival and the Center Jean Vilar.

The city is a traffic junction in the east of the Ain department. It is located at the intersection of the roads from Bourg-en-Bresse via Nantua to Annecy and from Geneva through the Rhone Valley to Belley . Other regional road connections exist with Mijoux and the Plateau de Retord. South of Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, the A40 motorway  crosses the Rhone Valley with a cantilever bridge around one kilometer long and 70 meters high. The next connection to the motorway, which opened in 1982, is around three kilometers away.

Bellegarde-sur-Valserine has been served by the Lyon – Genève railway since 1858 . The branch line via Nantua to Bourg-en-Bresse is located at Bellegarde station . The line was reopened in 2010 after its closure in 1990. Bellegarde-Vouvray airfield is located on the Michaille plateau above Bellegarde.

In Bellegarde-sur-Valserine there are six primary schools ( école élémentaire , five of which have pre-school classes) and a separate pre-school ( école maternelle ), two comprehensive schools ( collège ) and one upper secondary school ( lycée ).

Community partnerships

Web links

Commons : Bellegarde-sur-Valserine  - Collection of images, videos and audio files