Jura Mountains

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Jura Mountains
Landscape of tree-clad valley stretching toward mountainous horizon
Looking towards Lélex from near the Crêt de la Neige
Highest point
PeakCrêt de la Neige
Elevation1,720 m (5,640 ft)
Coordinates46°16′15″N 5°56′22″E / 46.27083°N 5.93944°E / 46.27083; 5.93944
Satellite image of the Jura mountains and Western Alps, including Lake Geneva, with major cities labeled
Satellite image of the Jura Mountains (upper left half of the image)
CountriesFrance and Switzerland
Regions/CantonsAuvergne-Rhône-Alpes, Bourgogne-Franche-Comté, Vaud, Canton of Neuchâtel, Canton of Jura and Basel-Landschaft
Range coordinates46°40′N 6°15′E / 46.667°N 6.250°E / 46.667; 6.250Coordinates: 46°40′N 6°15′E / 46.667°N 6.250°E / 46.667; 6.250

The Jura Mountains (/ˈ(d)ʒʊərə/ JOOR-ə, ZHOOR, French: [ʒyʁa] (About this soundlisten), German: [ˈjuːra] (About this soundlisten), locally [ˈjuːɾa];[needs Arpitan IPA] French: Massif du Jura; German: Juragebirge; Italian: Massiccio del Giura, Romansh: Montagnas da Jura) are a sub-alpine mountain range a short distance north of the Western Alps and mainly demarcate a long part of the French–Swiss border.

The east of the range separates the Rhine and Rhône basins. The west solely relates to the Rhône, however on the north side drains via the river Doubs which is a sub-tributary of the Rhône, flowing about 100 kilometres east and later requiring the valley of the Saône, south to the French city of Lyon where both parts of the river system unite.

The name "Jura" is derived from juria, a Latinized form of a Celtic stem jor- "forest".[1][2][3] The mountain range gives its name to the French department of Jura, the Swiss Canton of Jura, the Jurassic period of the geologic timescale, and the Montes Jura of the Moon.


The Jura Mountains are a far province of the larger Central European uplands.

In France, the Jura covers most of the Franche-Comté region, stretching south into the Rhône-Alpes region. The range reaches its highest point at the Crêt de la Neige (1,720 m (5,640 ft)) in the department of Ain and finds its southern terminus in the northwestern part of the department of Savoie. The north end of the Jura extends into the southern tip of the Alsace region. Roughly 1,600 km2 (600 sq mi) of the mountain range in France is protected by the Jura Mountains Regional Natural Park.

The Swiss Jura is one of the three distinct geographical regions of Switzerland, the others being the Swiss plateau and the Swiss Alps. In Switzerland, the range covers the western border with France in the cantons of Basel-Landschaft, Solothurn, Jura, Bern (i.e., Bernese Jura), Neuchâtel, Vaud and Geneva. Much of the Swiss Jura region has no historical association with Early Modern Switzerland and was incorporated as part of the Swiss Confederacy only in the 19th century. In the 20th century, a movement for Jura separatism developed which resulted in the creation of the canton of Jura in 1979.

The Swiss Jura has been industrialized since the 18th century and became a major centre of the watchmaking industry. The area has several cities at very high altitudes, such as La Chaux-de-Fonds, Le Locle and Sainte-Croix (renowned for its musical boxes); however, it generally has had a marked decline in population since 1960.

The Jura range proper (known as "folded Jura", Faltenjura) is continued as the Table Jura (Tafeljura) in the cantons of Basel-Landschaft and Aargau, and further to Schaffhausen (Randen) and into southern Germany towards the Swabian and Franconian plateaus.

The northern and eastern part of the Jura drains towards the Rhine and its tributaries Aare and Ill, the western and southern part towards the Rhône and its (sub)tributaries Doubs, Saône and Ain. The highest peaks in the Jura range are:


The range is built up vertically while decreasing in size laterally (along a rough northwest–southeast line). This deformation accommodates the compression from alpine folding as the main Alpine orogenic front moves roughly northwards. The deformation becomes less pervasive away from the younger, more active Alpine mountain building.

The geologic folds comprise three major bands (lithological units) of building that date from three epochs: the Lias (Early Jurassic), the Dogger (Middle Jurassic) and the Malm (Late Jurassic) geologic periods. Each era of folding reveals effects of previously shallow marine environments as evidenced by beds with carbonate sequences, containing abundant bioclasts and oolitic divisions between layers (called horizons).

Structurally, the Jura consists of a sequence of geologic folds, the formation of which is facilitated by an evaporitic decollement layer. The box folds are still relatively young, which is evident by the general shape of the landscape showing that they have not existed long enough to experience erosion, thus revealing recent mountain building.


The Jura range offer a variety of tourist activities including hiking, cycling, downhill skiing and cross-country skiing. There are many signposted trails including the Jura ridgeway, a 310 km (190 mi) hiking route.

Tourist attractions include natural features such as the Creux du Van, lookout peaks such as the Chasseral, caves such as the Grottes de l'Orbe, as well as gorges such as Taubenloch.

Both Le Locle and its geographical twin town La Chaux-de-Fonds are recognised as an UNESCO World Heritage Site for their horological and related cultural past. The 11th-century Fort de Joux, famously remodeled and strengthened by Vauban in 1690 and subsequently by other military engineers, is situated on a natural rock outcropping in the middle of the range not far from Pontarlier.

Part of the A40 autoroute crosses through a portion of the southern Jura between Bourg-en-Bresse and Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, which is known as the "Highway of the Titans".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Rollier, L. 1903. Das Schweizerische Juragebirge. Sonderabdruck aus dem Geographischen Lexikon der Schweiz, Verlag von Gebr. Attinger, 39 pp; Neuenburg
  2. ^ Hölder, H. 1964. Jura – Handbuch der stratigraphischen Geologie, IV. Enke-Verlag, 603 pp, 158 figs, 43 tabs; Stuttgart
  3. ^ Arkell, W. J. 1956. Jurassic Geology of the World. Oliver & Boyd, 806 pp; Edinburgh und London.

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