Rara National Park
Introduction: Rara National Park is located in northwest Nepal about 371 km air distance from Kathmandu. The park headquarters is about 32 km north to Jumla. Most of the park including Lake Rara lies in Mugu District, with a small area in Jumla District of Karnali Zone. This is the smallest park in Nepal (106 sq. km) with the country’s biggest lake (10.8 sq. km) at an elevation of 2990 m. The lake is oval shaped with an eastwest axis and has a maximum length of 5 km and a width of 3 km. The maximum depth of the lake is 167 m. The park was gazetted in 1967 to conserve the unique beauty of Lake Rara and to protect a representative sample of flora and fauna of the Humla-Jumla region. The elevation of the park ranges from 1800 m to 4048 m, Chuchemara Lekh is the highest point. The lake is in a deep basin, the northern and eastern rims which form part of the park boundary. The lake drains to Mugu Karnali River via Nija Khola. The lakeside pasture in the south gives way to the steep slopes of Gurchi Lekh, its crest culminating at Chuchemara in a horse-shoe shaped opening to the south drained by the Jiun River. On the west, river valleys cut through a ridge which form the natural boundary to the park. Vegetation and Wildlife:
* The park contains mainly coniferous forest. The area around the lake is dominated by blue pine (Pinus excelsa) up to 3200 m, Rhododendron (Rhododendron arboretum), black juniper (Juniperus wallichiana), west Himalayan spruce (picea smithina), oak (Quercus semecarpefolia) and Himalayan cypress (Cupressus torulosa) are other species. Above this elevation the vegetation is replaced by a mixed coniferous forest of pine, spruce and fir. At about 3350 m pine and spruce give way to fir, oak and birch forest. Other deciduous tree species found in the park are Indian horse-chestnut (Aesculus indica), walnut (Junglans regia) and Himalayan poplar (Populus ciliata).
* A small portion of the park serves as an ideal habitat for musk deer. Himalayan black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus), leopard (Panthera pardus), musk deer (Moschus moschiferous), goral (Nemorhaedus goral), jackal (Canis aureus), Himalayan tahr (Hemitragus jemlahicus), yellow throated marten (Martes flavigula), wild dog (Cuon alpinus), wild boar (Sus scrofa), common langur (Presbytes entillus), rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta) and common otter (Lutra lutra) are other species found in the park. The resident Gallinaceous birds and migrant waterfowls are of interest to park visitors. Coots (Fulica atra) are plentiful in the lake, many staying year-round. Great-crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), black-necked grebe (Podiceps nigricollis), red-crested pochard (Netta rufina), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), common teal (Anas crecca), merganser (Mergus merganser) and gulls are seen during winter. Other common birds in the park are snow cock (Tetraogallus himalayenis), chukor partridge (Alectoris chukor), Impeyan pheasant (Lophophorus impejanus), kalij pheasant (Lophura leuco elana) and blood pheasant (Ithaginis cruentus).
* Summer is pleasant, however, the winter brings cold temperatures and heavy snowfall (up to one meter). The best time to visit is October to December or March to May. The winter is quite severe with ground frost occurring from October.
* December through March is the time of snowfall with the temperature dropping to below freezing point. High passes remain closed by heavy snowfall during this time. The month of April brings the warmer weather and monsoon season is June to August.
* There are no settlements inside the park. Residents of two villages, Rara and Chhapru, were moved out in 1976 and resettle in Bardia District. Villages around the park are Jyari, Pina, Topla, Tuma, Ruma and Murma. The local economy is based on agriculture, primarily potatoes, buckwheat, beans, barley and wheat. Hindus dominate the community composition.
* Lake Rara is the most beautiful and interesting site in the park. Bird lovers enjoy winter with the migratory birds. Hundreds of varieties of ground flowers form a colorful carpet in summer. Conventional currents do not allow the lake to freeze in winter. Chuchemara Peak (4048 m) on the southern side of lake presents a magnificent scene with the gleaming blue water within a basin of well forested hills. Other summits are Ruma Kand (3731 m) and Malika Kand (3444 m) to the north of the lake. From these peaks one can enjoy the view of the lake, peaks to the south and beautiful Mugu Karnali River valley to the north.
How to Get There:
* Rara National Park can be visited either from Jumla (2.5 days trek) or from Surkhet (10 days trek).
* Flora and fauna are fully protected and must not be disturbed.
* Visitors entering the park should be self-sufficient in fuel supply (kerosene). Use of firewood is strictly prohibited.
* Camping inside the park except in designated areas is strictly prohibited.
* Movement inside the park before sunrise and after sunset is prohibited.