Rara National Park
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Rara National Park is a protected area in the Himalayas of Nepal and was established in 1976. Covering an area of 106 km2 in the Mugu and Dolpa districts, it is the country's smallest national park. Its main feature is Rara Lake at an altitude of 2,990 metres (9,810 ft). The park was established to protect the unique flora and fauna of the Humla-Jumla Region of Nepal.
The park ranges in elevation from 2,800 metres (9,200 ft) to 4,039 metres (13,251 ft) at Chuchemara Peak on the southern side of Rara Lake. On the northern side, the peaks of Ruma Kand and Malika Kand frame the alpine freshwater lake, which is the largest lake in Nepal with a surface of 10.8 km2 and a maximum depth of 167 metres (548 ft). It is oval-shaped with an east-west axis, a length of 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) and a width of 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) draining into the Mugu-Karnali River via Nijar Khola.
Rara NP is managed by the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation (DNPWC), and protected with the assistance of the Nepal Army.
The climate of Rara National Park is pleasant during the summer, but becomes very cold during the winter, because of the altitude. The best times to visit the park are in September, October, April, and May. During the winter, temperatures drop below freezing, and many high passes become blocked by snow. The summer is warm, but June to August is monsoon season, making the trek to Rara National Park difficult.
Rara National Park is rich in flora and fauna and a rare example of diverse natural beauty in the Himalayan region. The vegetation is generally sub-alpine and high-temperate, and is dependent on the altitude. Below 3200 meters, the vegetation consists of mainly Blue Pine (Pinus excelsa), Rhododendron (Rhododendron arboretum), West Himalayan Spruce, Black Juniper and Himalayan Cypress. Above 3200 meters, the vegetation changes to a coniferous forest consisting of a mixture of fir, spruce and pine.
Around twenty species of mammals reside in the park including Musk deer, Himalayan Black Bear, Indian Leopard, Jackal, Himalayan Tahr, Yellow-throated Marten, Otter, Dhole, Gray langur, Rhesus Macaque and Red Panda.
There are 241 recorded species of birds, including 49 wetland species. Coots are often found in the lake. During the winter, Great-crested and Black-necked grebes, Red-crested Pochards, Mallard, Common Teal (Anas crecca), and Common Merganser are common. Other birds seen often include the Himalayan Snowcock, Chukar Partridge, Himalayan Monal, Kalij Pheasant and Blood Pheasant.
The lake contains the three endemic snowtrout species Nepalese Snowtrout, Schizothorax nepalensis and Schizothorax raraensis, and the endemic frog species Paa rarica.
Rara is not generally a tourist destination, as there are little to no accommodations within the park, no health post, and it is difficult to get to. Visitors must fly from Kathmandu to Nepalgunj, followed by a flight to Jumla or Kolti. From there, a three-day trek will bring them to the park office. Alternatively, visitors can travel from Nepalgunj to Kurkhet, where it is a ten-day trek to the park. The lake has not received over 200 tourists in any year. Experienced trekkers can visit the national park via any of these routes, and Rara National Park is an interesting destination for many interested in seeing various flora, fauna, and scenery unique to the area.
GORP founder Bill Greer described Rara Lake as:
Another travel writer describes a trek in the park:
There are no settlements within the boundaries of Rara National Park, as the two villages once inside the area, Rara and Chhapru, were resettled in the Banke District when the protected area was established. Agriculture is the basis for the local economy in the surrounding areas, which has led to pollution inside the park. Sediment from the surrounding hills as well as sewage and solid waste threaten the park.
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