Wild life sanctuaries are the major attractions for tourists and pilgrims visiting Uttarakhand. At present, the following sanctuaries are being maintained and are under development.
1. Askot Sanctuary (altitude: 1,650 meters)
2. Binsar Sanctuary (altitude: 2,310 meters)
3. Corbett National Park
4. Govind (Pashu Vihar) Wild Life Sanctuary (altitude: 6,315m)
5. Kedarnath Sanctuary (Distt. Chamoli) (altitude: 967 sq km)
6. Nanda Devi National Park (Distt. Chamoli) (altitude: 6,817m)
7. Rajaji National Park
8. Valley of Flowers National Park
1. Askot Sanctuary
Askot sanctuary is situated at a distance of 54 km from Pithoragarh. Askot was the ancient kingdom of Katyur dynasty it also has a palace of the last Katyuri king. The name of Askot has been derived from the word Asi-kot, that is 80 forts. There are remains of the ancient forts all over the area. The area is rich for its sal, oak and pine forest and rich waterfalls. The important assets conserved here are `Malika Arjun temple` and the `Swami Narayan Ashram`. The Askot Sanctuary has fascinating hilly areas, and the houses surrounded by greenery, adds more amazement to its already splendid beauty. Askot is located in the lap of Kumaon Himalayas at a height of 1,650 metres, with the view of snow capped mountain peaks. The places of interest in the sanctuary are snow leopards, Himalayan black bears, musk deers, snow cocks, tahrs, bharals, monals, chirs, koklas, pheasants and chukors.
2. Binsar Sanctuary
The Binsar Wildlife Sanctuary is situated in the heart of Kumaon, 31 kms North East of Almora town in the state of Uttarakand in Northern India. It comprises about 50 sq kms of protected area on a mountain rising 8000 ft in the altitude above the neighbouring valleys with dense Oak, rhododendron and pine forests and its inhabitants-diverse wildlife and over two hundred birds as well as few exclusive estates made by the ruling British in the mid 19th century. Binsar was summer capital of the Chand kings. The stunning view of the entire chain of Himalayan peak from Yamunotri in Garhwal to Mt. Nampa in Nepal, Dominated by the sacred peak of Nanda Devi flanked by her sentinels Trishul and Nanda Kot is unsurpassed from the height of Binsar, with sweeping veiw of the mountains and valleys of Kumaon as far as the eye can see to the West, East and South, range upon range progressing like waves up to snow capped peaks ranging from 20,000 to 26,000 ft in altitude making a formidable barrier with China spread across the Northern horizon.
The grandeur of the views is not all that is special about Binsar, its forests, abundant in fauna and flora and steeped in Myths and legends dating from the mythological Saptrishis (the seven saints after whom a constellation is named ). To the British rulers and the Nehru family who onwed an estate in Binsar, capativate the imagination and senses with the feelling of unspoilt wilderness at its best. The silence of jungle is broken only by the sounds of animals and birds while oak tress hundreds of year old bear silent witness.
3. Jim Corbett National Park
Jim Corbett National Park is home to the roaring tiger, trumpeting elephant and the chirping birds, established in 1936, extends in an area of 1318.54 sq km comprising (Corbett: 520.82 sq km; Sonanadi Wildlife Sanctuary: 301.18 sq km and Reserve Forest: 496.54 sq km) lies in Pauri Garhwal and Nainital districts. The park has earned the name of “Land of Roar, Trumpet and Song”. The Park is situated in the foothills of Uttaranchal gifting a sight of extraordinary beauty. It is the Patlidun, a broad flat valley, where the shining, rushing water of the river Ramganga wander through the hills andvalleys. Nature has spared no efforts against the green and coppery plants of the forest of Sal. The spread of the glowing red flowers and the glow of the Forest, the delicate hangings of ferns and creepers and the waving tiger grass produces an unforgettable scene of magnificence, while .the colourful birds, lost in otherworldly song, add to the charm of Jim Corbett Park. Although the Sal timber is droped and extracted in certain parts, the natural beauty of the area has remained undamaged. The Park is particularly attractive, when the flowering trees are in bloom.
The Rites of spring
On the occurrence of spring, the entire Jim Corbett Park transforms into a beautiful sight. The budding `sheesham` leaves, the gorgeous burgundy flowers of semal, the violet blooms of kachnar, blend into a Kaleidoscope of colours. These colours are reflected in the sparkling waters of the Ramganga. While the countless varieties of exotic (alien) birds in their colourful spring feathers, add to the beauty by adding their charm and filling the air with musical song.
Fauna of the Park
In Jim Corbet Park wild elephants, leopards, hyenas, jackals and wild dogs are found. There are also some superb hog deer, barking deer, sambhar, chital and bears, both lazy and Himalayan. There is an occasional grief and some goral, mongooses, palm squirrel, flying squirrel, ratel, wild cat, antelopes, deer, wild boar, otter and porcupine. There are eight watchtowers in the park and to view the wonders from November to June elephants are available in Dhikala and Bijrani.
The Glories of the Ramganga
The Ramganha Comes from the high mountains, it`s sparkling, rushing waters emerges through the hills below Sankar and enters the glories of the park. On each side of the river is nature-given scenery, magnificent and erotic. The clear water of the river is not snow fed, nor affected by the melting of snows, so big fishes can be seen in the pools. The river passes through the heart of the park and emerges into the plains at Kalagarh. Popular with anglers (a fisherman who uses a hook and line), it is stocked with the mighty Masher, Indian Trout and Goonch. The rapids make the ladle, spinner and plugs invaluable, but the big monasters in the pools can be lured by live bait. Fishermen use the synthetic fiber line of at least 15-20 pound strength, with a reel capable of holding at least 200 metres of line. The Mahseer is a good fighter, and the first rush is a tremendous damage on the line for at least the first 50 metres. A fishing permit is necessary. The shallows and backwaters are full of small fish.
4. Govind Wild Life Sanctuary
Govind Wild Life Sanctuary was established in 1955, and is situated in a lonely and complex area of Uttarkashi district. One has to trek from Chakras by the upper Shimla road. Part of the sanctuary is above the snow line, and includes mountains like Swarg Rohini, Black Peak and Banderpoonch. Apart from the Sactuary, the place is a popular tourist destination, mainly because of the beauty of its snow-clad peaks and glaciers. It attracts many trekkers and is famous for its fertile green beauty. The wide variety of animal species that lives here includes Himalayan black bears, tahr, serow, monal, snow leopard, brown bears, tragapan, chir, bharal, musk deer, koklas, kaleej pheasants and chukor. The best season to visit this sanctuary is from May to October.
5. Kedarnath Sanctuary
Kedarnath Sanctuary was Established in the year 1972 Kedarnath Sanctuary lies broadly at 967 sq km in the land of gods Garhwal. In the wasteland of this sanctuary, animals like snow leopard, snow cock, tahr, musk deer, leopard and serow can be seen along with many species of birds. To Study the details of the musk deer a project funded by WWF was undertaken between 1978 -1980. The best season to visit this Sanctuary is from April to June and again from September to November.
6. Nanda Devi Sanctuary
Nanda Devi Sanctuary is situated in Chamoli district. It lies just next to the Nanda Devi peak. It was established in 1980. The first men to have reached this Sanctuary, while yet in its perfect form, were the British mountaineers Eric Ship ton and Bill Tillman. The area had largely remained peaceful until then, except for Tillman`s successful attempt on Nanda Devi in 1936. The present sanctuary came into existence in 1939. There are no roads available and the area is unreachable. Te only way to reach this sanctuary is to drive from Joshimath 25 km by road upto Lata and then 51 km trekking up to the sanctuary. Fauna includes Snow leopard, Himalayan Bear, Musk deer and Pheasant. The best season to visit is from April to May. Nanda Devi Sanctuary covers an area of 630 sq km.
The spectacular sights of peaks surrounding the National Park are Trishul, Dunagiri, Nanda Devi, Nanda Devi East, and Bethartoli etc. The beautiful surroundings with lavish flora and fauna like Brahma-Kamal and Bharal make this a Sanctuary of Nature. In 1982, entry to trekkers into the Nanda Devi National Park was banned to protect its biodiversity. The Nanda Devi National Park, which has been declared a “world heritage site”, has been opened recently for restricted number of tourists. Thus, this area has attracted many well-known International mountaineers. Sir Edmund Hillary in his autobiography has mentioned the soberness of this sanctuary.
7. Rajaji National Park
Rajaji National Park is located in the state of Uttaranchal, the major entry point of the park is at Ramgarh which is only fifteen kilometers from Dehradun. To reach Rajaji National Park it takes a near about twenty minutes from the holy town of Haridwar, where the river Ganga emerges from the mountains. Rajaji`s forests were once contiguous with those of the Corbett Tiger Reserve, 170 km to the southeast along the Shivalik foothills; however, with spreading human settlements only isolated pockets of forest remain in the hills and the adjoining terrain plains. Quite a number of wide animals are found here, enjoying the holy abode with its plenty. They include Asian Elephant, Tiger, Goral, Leopard, Jungle Cat, Leopard-cat, Common Palm Civet, Sloth Bear, Jackal (above), Small Indian Mongoose, Common Mongoose, Barking Deer, Satmbar, Spotted Deer (Chital), Wild Boar (below), Osprey, Pallas`s Fish Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Brown Fish Owl, Red Junglefowl, Indian Peafowl, Black Francolin, Oriental Pied Hornbill, Great Slaty Woodpecker, Greater Yellownape, Maroon Oriole, Large Cuckooshrike, Jungle Myna, Blue-bearded Bee-eater, Lesser Racket-tailed Drongo, Spangled Drongo, Asian Paradise-flycatcher, Crimson Sunbird etc.
Among various hunting birds, Osprey, Pallas`s Fish Eagle, Lesser Fish Eagle, Eurasian Marsh Harrier, Brown Fish Owl deserve special mentioning. Other birds namely Greylag Goose, Ruddy Shelduck, Comb Duck, Spotbill Duck, Stork-billed Kingfisher are found mainly near the banks of rivers.
In the year 1984, Rajaji National Park merges with the three sanctuaries Rajaji, Motichur and Chilla, thus forming a 820 square kms. The name of the park is attributed to the first Governal General of India and also C. Rajagopalachari, the famous freedom fighter of India.
The scenic beauty of the Rajaji national Park captivates the tourists who visit the park both from Indian states and other foreign countries. Dense evergreen forests include various trees sal, mahegony; other characteristic features are riverine vegetation and terrain grasslands, making the park lush with fruits, vegetables and other treasures of forestry.
Rajaji National Park is a home to various wild animals. Deer, Goral are found grazing on the grasslands of low hilly regions. Also as per 1999 census report, the number of wild elephants that are found in the parks amounts to four hundred and forty-five. More than 300 types of birds have been found in the Rajaji national Park. One such beautiful bird is Red Jungle fowl. Nice spots on their tails are easily identifiable. Woodpeckers and hornbills are also found in large numbers.
8. Valley of flower
The land of magnificence, enchantment, trance and splendor, the valley of flowers is undoubtedly the most important part of the Bhyundar Valley of Uttaranchal. Perched almost 3 kms climb from Ghangria, the valley of flowers is as if a dream suddenly turned into reality. Beauty drops her image on almost everything and everywhere. The motley of colours, the fusion of shades and indeed the vibrant magic of the valley have that entire exotic and mysterious splendor, veiled in her heart. With hundreds of flowering plants playing magic on the beholders mind and sight, with the seethe of those nameless flowers the valley is sure to enchant one whilst leaving, awestruck.
The Valley of Flowers National Park is located in Chamoli Garhwal, about 595 km northeast of India`s capital Delhi. Govindghat (1800 m) is a 22kms drive from Joshimath en-route to Badrinath. After the 15 km trek from Govindghat to Ghangria, lies the land of beauty, dream, colours and romance- ” the Valley of Flowers”. Spreading over an area of 87.5 Sq. Kms and with the varying altitude ranging from 3,200 m to 6,675 m, the valley with its magical touch provides a great diversity of landscape and microhabitats. Thick white snow and colourless glaciers covers almost 73 percent of the valley. Forests in the National Park constitute only about 5.29-sq km that is only 6 percent area while the alpine meadows cover 18.63 sq km that is 21 percent of the valley. A riot of color amidst the frosty whispers of the snow and the evergreen verdure of the lushness makes the Valley of flower a dream world where magic weaves the saga of love. The vast expanse of fluorescent green enclosed by cliffs of glacial ice paints a magical picture of the valley
The brilliantly colored valley, which can amuse, bewitch, entice and mystify stands as the icon of freshness and sparkle whilst encircled by the peaks like Nar Parbat (5,245m) to the northwest, Nilgiri Parbat (6,479m) to the north, Rataban (6,126m) across the Bhuindhar Pass, with Gauri Parbat (6,708m) to the east and Saptasring (5,038) to the south. The flowing Lakshman Ganga from Lokpal lake (4,150m) in the Hemkund valley offers a holy dimension to the valley. Sub Alpine between 3,200m and 3,500m. Lower Alpine between 3,500m and 3,700m, and the higher alpine above 3,700m are the three main vegetation zones of the valley.
The credit to popularize the Valley of Flowers among masses generally goes to a British mountaineer- Frank S. Smythe who accidentally visited this area in 1931 and published a book “The Valley of Flowers”
The valley has been described as `Nandan Kanan` meaning “Garden of Indra in Paradise” in the Hindu mythology. Legends and myths lace the valley. Legend associates this valley with the area from where lord Hanuman collected `Sanjeevani` herb to revive Lakshman, younger brother of lord Rama, when Lakshman fell unconscious during war with Meghnad, son of Ravana.
The three kilometers trail to the valley just after crossing the log bridge over the Laxman Ganga from Ghangaria is indeed a gentle journey. The magical seethe of wild flowers, the exotic sight of those nameless, endless vast verdure lining the way, makes the journey as if a trip to paradise. The matching brilliance of colours teamed with the fluorescent hues of the butterflies that flit by makes the valley even more charming.
Among the important species that are found here are numerous mammalian species, namely, Leopard, Himalayan Tahr, Musk Deer, Red Fox, Himalayan Weasel, Ye How-throated Marten, Himalayan Black Bear, Brown Bear, Himalayan Mouse-hare, Bharal (Blue Sheep), Indian Flying Squirrel. Also some carnivorous birds like Lammergeier, Himalayan Griffon, Common Kestrel, Golden Eagle, Black Eagle, thrive in some reclusive corners of the park.
Other birds include Himalayan Monal, Koklass Pheasant, Kalij Pheasant, Himalayan Snowcock, Snow Partridge, Hill Partridge, Chukar, Red-billed Chough, Yellow-billed Chough, Common Raven, Grandala, Snow Pigeon, Spotted Laughingthrush, Variegated Laughingthrush, Plain-backed Thrush, Upland Pipit, Rosy Pipit, Rock Bunting, White-capped Bunting. In fact the whole valley is filled with the music of these chirping birds.
Along side the coastal areas , numerous birds throng. These include Brown Dipper, White-throated Dipper, Spotted Forktail, Little Forktail, pines, maples, firs, spruces, rhododendrons, silver birch, asters, balsams, dandelions, edelweiss , gentians, geraniums, irises, lilies, poppies , potentillas, primulas, saussurea and senecios.