Hemis National Park, Jammu & Kashmir
Area of the Park : 4400 sq kms
Year of Establishment: 1981
Best Season to visit : Between May and September
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Hemis National Park (4400 sq kms) is situated in the northern most district of Ladakh and on the west bank of the river Indus. It was established in the year of 1981 for safeguarding the Snow Leopards in India. This 'high altitude' park gets its name from the Hemis Gompa, a well known Buddhist monastery positioned at a distance of 40 kms south east of Leh. The monastery has around 200 branches with almost 1000 monks in the Himalayan region. Tagged as the largest monastic institution in Ladakh, a trip to this monastery adds thrills to the trip. Additionally, camping and trekking are other recreational activities to indulge in. The rocky terrain of this high altitude desert holds rugged valleys, often surrounded by big uneven rocks.
Within the confines of the park, there are six villages, namely, Rumbak, Kaya, Sku, Shingo, Urutse and Chilling. Collectively, these are inhabited by about 1600 people. You can also find several gompas and chortens inside the park.
Area of the Park
In 1981, the park was initially founded by saving the Rumbak and Markha catchments which covered an area of about 600 sq km. By 1988 the area of the park increased to around 3350 sq km by including areas of neighboring lands. Thereafter, it again grew in 1990 and finally became 4400 sq kms. Now, Hemis National Park is the largest national park in South Asia.
The climate of the park is one of extremes. It offers an experience of daily and seasonal fluctuations, with significant variations in their levels. You should be ready to get surprised by a snowfall at any time of the year, as it is too uncertain to predict. During the winter phase, the Zanskar River and its tributaries remain frozen.
The foliage of the park is quintessentially alpine and steppe combined with patchy woods and shrub species at the base point of the valleys. The soggy top mountain slopes are naturally suitable for the alpine vegetation. The remaining mountain slopes and open hillsides are apposite to the above all steppe vegetation. The valleys significantly showcase the high altitude desert featured by thin grasslands and verdant vegetation on mountain slopes.
The national park is nothing less than a visionary treat to the visitors. The scenic beauty and landscapes will leave you spellbound and give you reasons to capture the nature in your digital lens. Magnificent mountains and alpine forests of juniper and subalpine dry birch are spectacular views. The Stok Kangri peak is located within the park. The confluence of Indus and Zanskar rivers acts like the boundary of the park, which is again a pleasure to the eyes. It also includes the catchment area of Markha, Sumdah and Rumbak, and some portion of the Zanskar Range.
Wildlife in Hemis National Park
In the park, 16 mammal species and 73 bird species have been recorded so far.
A viable breeding population of about 200 snow leopards is present especially in the Rumbak catchment area. The Argali (Great Tibetan Sheep), Bharal (Blue Sheep), Shapu (Ladakhi Urial), and livestock are other animals dwelling here. A small population of the Asiatic Ibex is also present in Hemis. The park houses 200 leopards and is supposedly the only home of Shapu or Ladakhi Urial in India. It is also an abode of small mammals like Himalayan marmot, mountain weasol and Himalayan mouse.
The Tibetan Wolf, the Eurasian Brown Bear (endangered in India), and the Red Fox are also spotted in Hemis National Park.
Along with an identified population of Snow Leopard and Ibex, other mammals found in Hemis comprise the wolf, Wild Dog, Bharal (Blue Sheep), Pallas's Cat, Tibetan argali, Himalayan marmots, Kiang (Tibetan Wild Ass), Lynx, Wooly Hare and Pika (Mouse Hare).
Bird Species in Hemis National Park
For bird lovers, the park is nothing less than a dreamland. The Rumbak Valley offers fine opportunities for bird-watching, including several Tibetan species, which are definitely unusual in other parts of India. Birds found here are Brown Accentor, Robin Accentor, Tickell's Leaf Warbler, Streaked Rosefinch, Tibetan Snowfinch, Chukar, Fork-tailed Swift, Red-billed Chough, Himalayan Snowcock, and the Fire-fronted Serin. Among the raptors that you can find here include the Golden Eagle, the Lammergeier vulture, and the Himalayan Griffon vulture.
Hemis National Park Travel Information
How to Get There
By Air : Connected by Indian Airlines to Delhi, Chandigarh, Srinagar and Jammu; the nearest airport is Leh airport.
By Rail: At a distance of about 690 kms, Jammu is the nearest railhead, and it is connected to almost major destinations in India.
By Road : Leh is accessible from two directions. Firstly, from the Manali side in Himachal via Keylong, and secondly, from Srinagar in Kashmir via Kargil.