Ardèche (French pronunciation: [aʁ.dɛʃ]; Occitan and Arpitan: Ardecha) is a department in south-central France named after the Ardèche River. The area has been inhabited by humans at least since the Upper Paleolithic, as attested by the famous cave paintings at Chauvet Pont d'Arc.
The plateau of the Ardeche River has extensive standing stones (dolmens and menhirs), erected thousands of years ago. The river is the largest natural canyon in Europe and the caves that dot the cliffs (which go as high as 300 m (1,000 feet)) are known for signs of prehistoric inhabitants (arrowheads and flint knives are often found). With its rivers and streams, the Ardèche has become a favorite place for canoe and kayak enthusiasts from around the World. The Ardèche contains a part of the Cévennes National Park.
The area is very well known for sport climbing, with many well-managed limestone and granite crags. Each year the Ardeche hosts one of France's biggest road cycling events, L'Ardechoise, with 16,000 entrants participating in 2011. The Ardèche is known for the speciality of Sweet Chestnuts, with the famous "châtaigne d'Ardèche'" granted the "AOC", or "Appellation of Controlled Origin", in 2006.