1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Vosges (mountains)

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VOSGES (Lat. Vogesus or Vosagus, Ger. Wasgau or Vogesen), a mountain range of central Europe, stretching along the west side of the Rhine valley in a N.N.E. direction, from Basel to Mainz, for a distance of 150 m. Since 1871 the southern portion, from the Ballon d'Alsace to Mont Donon, has been the frontier between France and Germany. There is a remarkable similarity between the Vosges and the corresponding range of the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine: both lie within the same degrees of latitude and have the same geological formation; both are characterized by fine forests on their lower slopes, above which are open pasturages and rounded summits of a uniform altitude; both have a steep fall to the Rhine and a gradual descent on the other side. The Vosges in their southern portion are mainly of granite, with some porphyritic masses, and of a kind of red sandstone (occasionally 1640 ft. in thickness) which on the western versant bears the name of “grès Vosgien.”

Geographically the range is divided south to north into four sections: the Grandes Vosges (62 m.), extending from Belfort to the valley of the Bruche; the Central Vosges (31 m.), between the Bruche and the Col de Saverne; the Lower Vosges (30 m.), between the Col de Saverne and the source of the Lauter; and the Hardt (q.v.). The rounded summits, of the Grandes Vosges are called “ballons.” The departments of Vosges and Haute Saône are divided from Alsace and the territory of Belfort by the Ballon d'Alsace or St Maurice (4100 ft.). Thence northwards the average height of the range is 3000 ft., the highest point, the Ballon de Guebwiller (Gebweiler), or Soultz, rising to the east of the main chain to 4680 ft. The Col de Saales, between the Grandes Vosges and the central section, is nearly 1900 ft. high; the latter is both lower and narrower than the Grandes Vosges, the Mont Donon (3307 ft.) being the highest summit. The railway from Paris to Strassburg and the Rhine and Marne Canal traverse the Col de Saverne. No railway crosses the Vosges between Saverne and Belfort, but there are carriage roads over the passes of Bussang from Remiremont to Thann, the Schlucht (3766 ft.) from Gérardmer to Munster, the Bonhomme from St Did to Colmar, and the pass from St Did to Ste Marie-aux-Mines. The Lower Vosges are a sandstone plateau ranging from 1000 to 1850 ft. high, and are crossed by the railway from Hagenau to Sarreguemines, defended by the fort of Bitche.

Meteorologically the difference between the eastern and western versants of the range is very marked, the annual rainfall being much higher and the mean temperature being much lower in the latter than in the former. On the eastern slope the vine ripens to a height of 1300 ft.; on the other hand, its only rivers are the 111 and other shorter streams. The Moselle, Meurthe and Sarre all rise on the Lorraine side. Moraines, boulders and polished rocks testify the existence of the glaciers which formerly covered the Vosges. The lakes, surrounded by pines, beeches and maples, the green meadows which provide pasture for large herds of cows, and the fine views of the Rhine valley, Black Forest and snow-covered Swiss mountains combine to make the district picturesque. On the lower heights and buttresses of the main chain on the Alsatian side are numerous castles, generally in ruins. At several points on the main ridge, especially at St Odile above Ribeauville (Rappoltsweiler), are the remains 01 a wall of unmortared stone with tenons of wood, 6 to 7 ft. thick and 4 to 5 ft. high, called the pagan wall (Mur Payen). It was used for defence in the middle ages, and archaeologists are divided as to whether it was built for this purpose by the Romans, or before their arrival.