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Abstract

This paper traces the touristic trajectories of three spectacular gorges located in the Alpine foreland and the southern Jura: the gorges of the upper Rhône (Ain/Haute-Savoie), the Sierroz (Savoie) and the Fier (Haute-Savoie). All three are located within a distance of 50 km from each other. The upper Rhône gorge, already famous at the end of the eighteenth century, was drowned under the floodwaters of the Génissiat dam in 1948; only a significant iconography remains of two centuries of (geo)tourism. The Sierroz gorge, close to the spa resort of Aix-les-Bains, became famous after the dramatic and tragic death in 1810 of a young noblewoman. Following that event many tourists staying on the shore of the lake Bourget visited the gorge until 1970 when it was closed to the public. Since then, the gorge has gradually become a touristic wasteland. The Fier gorge near Annecy became a tourist attraction in 1869 with the opening of the nearby railway station of Lovagny; since then, visitors have been attracted to it in increasing numbers. The history of these three gorges illustrates how tourism and heritage are in constant interaction; however, the development of the one will not always ensure the protection of the other. Today, geoheritage assessment is based upon criteria that are as objective as is possible. The intrinsic geological and geomorphological characteristics are the initial geoheritage values, to which can be added the cultural value elements. Associated with the development of geotourism and geoparks, this new approach should ensure a better and sustainable use of these sites in the long term.

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