Geologically speaking, the Central Catalonia UNESCO Global Geopark is located in the eastern sector of the so-called Ebro Basin. The main rocks are of sedimentary origin, formed between the Eocene and the Lower Oligocene. The oldest were formed in marine environments (fossiliferous limestone reef, marlstones, etc.), then, as the sea dried up, evaporative sediments of sulphates (chalk) and salts (halite, sylvite, carnalite) were formed. Finally, from about 36 million years ago, by sediments in rivers and lakes. The final evolution of this marine basin (called the Catalonian Potassic Basin) is one of the best examples on a world scale and also contains one of the largest potash mining areas in Europe. In addition, the territory has unique elements recognised internationally such as the Montserrat and Sant Llorenç del Munt Mountains (as examples of delta varieties) or spectacular karstic elements such as the Salt Caves (Collbató), Mura cave and Toll caves (Moià), the latter with important prehistoric and fauna remains from the Quaternary. Other elements of great scientific importance such as the southern manifestations of Pyrenean tectonics, a very representative and characteristic geomorphology and important fossil remains of vertebrates in river terraces and in caves (elephants, rhinoceroses, hippopotamuses, hyenas, among many others), as well as a multitude of outcrops of great didactic and scientific importance.
Salt mining has been developed in the territory since ancient times. The first evidence of the exploitation of halite is from the Neolithic period in the Cardona Salt Mountain, which also appears described in the writings of Plini el Vell (2nd century BC) and quoted by Aulus Geli (2nd century BC) where he transcribes a phrase from Cato that says ‘a great mountain of pure salt that grows as it is extracted’. Along with this mining there has also been the traditional exploitation of clay, limestone, chalk and coal. These natural resources have led to mining activity over many centuries that has left an important heritage.
The continuous human presence, already dated during the Epipalaeolithic, has provided this area with a magnificent historical, cultural and traditional heritage that completes the rich and strong personality of the territory. This unique character of Central Catalonia is also linked to a geology and landscape that have evolved together over millions of years.
A total of 74 catalogued spaces show the great geodiversity of the territory with first order points and examples in many fields of geology. This inventory is not to be understood as a closed and definitive list but is reviewed periodically and this can represent both modifications and additions and deletions. Different geotourism activities and training at all levels are carried out in these spaces.
When visiting the Geopark, respect the geological heritage, do not damage the outcrops and remember that it is forbidden to collect fossils.
Cover photo: Vilafresca i Ca l’Estruch de Navàs coasts | Òscar Rodbag