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Travel Guide Ile de Ré Get to know Ile de Ré

Local salt production

The salt marshes are remarkable in the landscape of the Ré island as well as the sandy beaches. These large areas for salt production occupy nearly 460 hectares of the island's surface. The construction of these marshes was at the origin of the gathering of the 4 islands which formerly formed an archipelago to unite in a single island of 85 km².

The extraction of salt is a true tradition inseparable from Ré island. There is even, in Loix, an ecomuseum dedicated solely to this local specialty. The first Saltworks were born in the Middle Ages with the arrival of monks on the island. The techniques of extraction of monks-era are still practiced these days, but the different centuries have just brought some improvements.

The 19th century witnessed the height of salt production on the retated soil. At that time, production could reach 25,000 tons per year and professionals in this field were about a thousand. Unfortunately, competition with salts from other regions became harsher and greatly affected Ré’s economy.

Today, salt men and women are no longer as numerous. There are about a hundred, grouped in the Cooperative des Sauniers de l’ïle de Ré. They continue to produce salt with respect for traditions and nature.

Salt extraction requires a great deal of precision and attention to detail, a specific know-how and plenty of time. Indeed, throughout the year, according to the season, producers must comply with very specific rituals, guaranteeing the quality of the product extracted and marketed.

During spring, they prepare the marshes and carry out drainings and cleanings of basins. Summer is the season of harvest, while in autumn, it is the “charroi” or the re-entry of salt to the cooperative. In winter, salt producers only rest once the work of the marshes has been completed. Before enjoying this well-deserved rest, they must first un-dent the pools’ floor, that consists in leveling them up and removing a layer of clay using boguettes, which are traditional wooden shovels.