On December 2nd, 2000, l'UNESCO inscribed the central part of the Loire river valley, between le Maine and Sully-sur-Loire, on its prestigious list of World Heritage sites.
The Loire, the longest river in France, is also the last free-flowing river in Europe. The river runs in accordance with nature's rhythm. Unlike any other river in western Europe, there are no dams or locks creating obstacles to its natural flow, except far upstream. This exceptional situation allows for a great variety of semi-humid environments (which are incidentally in danger of extinction on our planet) over the length of the river. It also benefits the numerous animal and plant species that live in and along the river. The diversity and rarity of some of these species are absolutely remarkable. The landscape of the Loire valley, and in particular its many monuments, evoke the ideals of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment on western European thought and creation to an extent that has never been reached before.
Two years ago, (1999) the Loire Valley failed to make the UNESCO list. The presence of the Saint Laurent nuclear plant (and three others out of the perimeter and farther upstream) and the great number of high tension wires dissuaded the jury. This time, a more consensual layout defining the area to be included on the list, won the commission's favor. The report from the committee's 24th session recognizes that the Loire Valley, "is an exceptional cultural landscape, of great beauty, comprised of historic cities and villages, great architectural monuments - the Chateaux- and lands that have been cultivated and shaped by centuries of interaction between local populations and their physical environment, in particular the Loire itself."
The Chateau and Estate of Chambord, previously inscribed on the WHL is now part of the Loire Valley.