Shey-Phoksundo National Park
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Shey Phoksundo National Park is the largest and only trans-Himalayan National Park in Nepal. It covers an area of 3,555 km2 in the districts of Dolpa and Mugu in the northwestern part of the country.
The park was formally gazetted in 1984 with its headquarters in Palam, in Dolpa District.
The park contains the famous Phoksundo Lake, the deepest lake in Nepal.
Shey Phoksundo National Park provides a diversity of spectacular landscapes and ranks among the most scenic mountain parks in the world. Much of the park lies north of the Himalayan crest. Elevations range from 2,130 metres (6,990 ft) in the southeast near Ankhe to 6,883 metres (22,582 ft) at the summit of Kanjiroba Himal, which lies at the southern edge of the Tibetan plateau. Phoksundo Lake, famous for its magnificent turquoise color, lies at 3,660 metres (12,010 ft) in the upper reaches of Suligad and is Nepal’s deepest and second largest lake. Near the lake’s outlet is the country’s highest waterfall. Many beautiful glaciers can be found near and above the lake area.
The Langu river drains the high Dolpo plateau situated in the north-east of the park. The Suligad and Jugdual rivers form the southern catchment flowing south into the Thuli Bheri river.
Spanning the northern and southern aspects of the Himalayan crest, the park experiences a wide climatic range and lies in the transition zone from a monsoon dominated to an arid climate. Annual precipitation reaches 1500 mm in the south, whereas on northern slopes less than 500 mm of rain falls. Most of the precipitation occurs during monsoon from July to September. The Dhaulagiri and Kanjiroba massifs form a massive barrier preventing most of the rain from reaching the Trans-Himalayan area. Winters are quite severe with frequent snowfalls above 2,500 m and temperatures remaining below freezing above 3,000 m through much of the winter.
The flora found within the park is exteremely diverse. The northern regions contain barren areas of the upper Himalayas. The Trans-Himalayan slope lands consist of some rhododendron, caragana shrubs, salix, juniper, white Himalayan birch, and the occasional silver fir dominate the high meadows of the Himalayas. Less than five percent of the park is forested, with much of it lying in the southern portion. The Suligad Vally’s flora consists of blue pine, spruce, hemlock, cedar, silver fir, poplar, rhododendron, and bamboo. The park also contains 286 species of ethnobotanical importance.
The park provides important habitat for endangered species including the snow leopard, grey wolf, musk deer, and blue sheep. Goral, great Tibetan sheep, Himalayan tahr, leopard, jackal, Himalayan black bear and yellow-throated marten are also found in the park. The park is home to six reptiles and 29 species of butterfly, including the highest flying butterfly in the world, Paralasa nepalaica. The park provides habitat for over 200 species of birds, such as Tibetan partridge, wood snipe, white-throated tit, wood accentor and crimson-eared rosefinch.
The park contains many gompas and religious sites, many of which have been renovated. Shey Gompa, the most famous, was established in the 11th century. Thashung Gompa located near Phoksundo Lake was built about 900 years ago to conserve wildlife. Ringmo village, a typical Tibetan village, is scenically nestled in the park.
The park is home to more than 9,000 people, and their villages are among the highest settlements on earth. The local people are subsistence farmers growing potatoes, buckwheat, mustard, beans and some barley; and keeping livestock for food and wool. They barter with Tibetans for salt and wool. Their lifestyle is typically Tibetan. Most of them are Buddhists; the people around Phoksundo area practice Bön. There are communal gompas in most of the villages.
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