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Lake Khovsgol

Ninety-six rivers and streams empty into Lake Khuvsgul, but only the Egiin River exits the lake. The Egiin flows southeast until it joins the Selenge River, which flows through one of Mongolia's most densely populated areas on its way to Lake Baikal. Tributaries to Khuvsgul include the Hankh and Khoroo rivers, the mouths of which have been designated "core areas" because of their importance for migratory birds. Nine species of fish inhabit the lake, including Siberian grayling and lenok. Nearby taiga forest, forest steppe, mountains, and the lake itself provide habitat for 68 species of mammals, including argali, ibex, elk, reindeer, musk deer, brown bear, lynx, marten, beaver, wolf, and moose, 244 species of birds, and 750 species of plants, including 60 with medicinal importance.

Pollution and Problems facing the Lake:

• Forest close to the lake beach felling illegally for domestic purposes, where no tree replanted. However, reforestation and germination rates after planting are very low in Mongolia;
• Annual forest reductions are even greater due to frequent forest fires and other calamities, such as insect outbreaks. Forests are critical for watershed protection, and therefore should not be over-exploited in the area;
• Fuel spills in the lake;
• Poaching of bear, musk deer, and elk;
• Current camping and tourism conditions do not meet requirements for hygiene, sanitation, ecological protection and watershed management. During the last decade the number of tourist camps had been increased from one in 1990 to twenty in 1999.
• Along the tourist camps there is increases the number of households and domestic animals.
• Road access to the Hatgal town from the camps region is not easy. Therefore there are already has created small waste disposal point around every camp, from what could pollute soil and the lake water.
• Watershed and ecological management knowledge of the Park ranchers is limited. Education on lake watershed management and ecological monitoring need in great demand not only ranchers of the Park Administration, Companies workers and local residents. If we organize well the protection and sustainable development of the lake in Mongolia gets substantial support from citizens and local community. For example, in the mid-1980’s people resisted the Khuvsgul phosphorus mine proposal, considering it damaging to the ecosystem and quality of the lake. Mongolian scientists agreed and the government postponed the project.
• Economic pressures-the need to find food and for the winter-were beginning to override the traditional environmental beliefs. The people living in the region culturally had a strong interest in the environment because their religions (Buddhism) promoted reverence for nature.
At present, however, there is a lack of accurate information about lake water pollution.

Mongolia's Northern Beauty

by J. Bolortuya

President N.Bagabandi has called Khovsgol Mongolia's treasure. Tourists, who flock to the area after hearing about the beautiful lake by the same name, call it Mongolia's Switzerland. The Burenkhaan Horidol, Erchmiin,Tagna, and Soyoni mountains, the Ider, Tes, Delger, and Selenge rivers, and the Erkhel, Achmag, Tsengel, Sangiin lakes attract people from far and near. With 70 percent of Lake Khovsgol's water beneath 100 meters, bottoming out at 262, the lake is Central Asia's deepest; and home to two percent of the world's fresh water. It has remained remarkably free of pollution, and its waters are as clear as spring water. Fish, including ruff and salmon, can be easily seen swimming year round. 96 rivers and streams flow out of Khovsgol, among them the Egiin river, which then joins the Selenge along its eventual path to Lake Baikal. Indeed, the Khovsgol's flora and fauna closely resemble that found in its northern neighbor.The lake has 4 islands- Khadan khuis, Modon khuis, Dalait khuis and Baga khuis. The largest is Dalait khuis (6 square km), and is covered with forest.

The More Snow, the Better

In the aimag's Tsagaannuur soum there are over 30 tsaatan-popularly known as the reindeer people. They lead a nomadic lifestyle, following their reindeer into the taiga. They are one of the most unique minorities of Mongolia, and simply could not survive without their animal companions. Although tsaatan live in a cold environment, they do not live in warm homes. They live in tents made of long twigs that are tied together and covered with cloth.The reindeer, however, don't feel the cold. The more it snows, the better they look and the more weight they seem to gain. They feed mainly on moss by digging through the snow. During winter they refrain from water, and eat ice and snow; even during summertime they prefer ice and snow to its warmer variants. The tsaatan have well domesticated the reindeer over the years, and the animals are very well behaved. As they like the smell of smoke, they gather around the encampment's fire and do not stray far. In the province, however, there are only 600 of the animals, and the number is not rising.

Stone Statues in Khovsgol

In Khovsgol there are a variety of historic sites, with ancient tombs, burial mounds, statues and temples abounding. There is an interesting collection of stone-drawings (of deer, of course) all located relatively close to each other. Near the Uushig mountains, to the west of the province's capital, Moron, there lie 14 stones. In Galt soum, some six and a half kilometers north of of Tsagaan-Uul soum and near to the Baga Bogd mountains, lie 8 stones more. In Burentogtokh soums's Khiadag area, yet 5 more. Most of the stones are made of shale, granite and marble. They average between 150-160 cm in height, 40 cm in width, and about 25 cm in thickness. The drawings are realistic Bronze Age depictions, with legs and all. For those who somehow tire of seeing stones, there is a bit of variety in Tomorbulag soum. On the left side of the Zyini river, there are the requisite stones with deer-paintings (nine of them here), but also burial mounds.

Monkh Khaan- the Tale of Erchuu Town

In Arbulag soum, on the northern bank of the Delger river near the Altan Gadas mountains, lie the remains of Monkh Khaan's palace. Monkh, as if he needed any introduction, was a grandson of the world-renowned Chinggis. Historical notes say that the 13th century French traveler Wilhelm de Roubruk spent some time in Monkh Khaan's residence on his way to the empire's capital, Kharkhorum. Archaeologists have turned up pots found with and without enamel, clay, chalk, and wooden ashes. They also discovered a stone statue in the palace, with the words carved on it in the old Mongolian script: "May Monkh Khaan live many, many years," proof that the stone was erected while Monkh still breathed. If you plan on heading out to Khovsgol just for the statue, however, save yourself some time. It was brought to Ulaanbaatar in 1956, and now resides in the National History Museum.

Gelenhuu's Stupa

10 km north of Jargalant soum lies Gelenhuu's stupa. It was built by a man-Gelenhuu-who lived in the area. He was born in the 1890s and at the age of 10 became a monastery-student, only to be expelled for not obeying religious rules and traditions. After his expulsion, he moved to the countryside. A curious man by nature, Gelenhuu had many interests, and many songs and legends were written about him. He grew different kinds of fruits and vegetables, and although it's unknown exactly how, he brought the region its marmot population, built a special river, and was a skilled craftsman to boot.The height of the stupa is 3 meters, and is, of course, decorated with granite.

Dayan Deerkhin Cave

There are three types of caves-hollow, disintegrated and volcanic caves. Hollow caves are formed when limestone dissolves in the water coming up from between cracks in the earth, where erosion occurs. One of the big hollow caves is called the "Dayan Deerkhiin" cave in Tsagaan Uur soum of Khovsgol aimag. Dayan Derkhiin Cave reputed to have ancient paintings on its walls is 35 km beyond Tsagaan Nuur sum, Bulgan Aimag, near the Zerley river. In winter, you can get within 500 meters of the cave. There is a place, however, for landing a plane near the "Dayan Deerkhiin" temple ruins, not far from the cave. It was a big monastery many years ago. Inside of the cave is so beautiful. It has many things of interest. In the middle of the cave there is a shrine with a white horse on a stone owo (ceremonial cairn). It takes three or four hours to see the cave.
"Dayan Deerkhiin" cave is 200 meters long. It has two stories, and to get to the upper one you have to use a 9-meter ladder. Many years ago the first story was a religious meeting hall.
"Dayan Deerkhiin" cave has three openings. It is 715 km from Ulaanbaatar, but is difficult to get to directly by car.

 Visitor Rules and Safety at
Lake Khovsgol National Park

Park Rules

To protect the natural beauty of Khovsgol National Park, the Minister of Nature and the Environment and the Director of Khovsgol National Park have put the following rules in place. Please help the park by following them. If you break these rules, you may be fined, or be required to leave the park.
All Areas
1. All visitors must have permits inside the park.
2. Do not leave any trash or waste in the park; carry out everything you carry in. Please don’t throw cigarette butts on the ground!
3. Be careful with fire! A grass or forest fire is started all too easily in Mongolia’s dry climate. Every year thousands of hectares of precious nature are burned as a result of carelessness. Therefore, all fires must be extinguished completely before leaving camp. If you cannot put your hand in the fire ring, then the fire is not completely out. Use fire rings left by others whenever possible. If a ranger finds an old fire ring within 50 meters of your fire ring, you will be fined. Trees grow slowly in Mongolia, so use only dead wood from fallen trees for fires.
4. The pristine waters of Khovsgol’s lakes and streams are easily polluted, even by a small amount of soap or other chemicals. So do not use any soap or chemicals within 50 meters of lakes, rivers, streams or springs.
5. The grasslands in Khovsgol National Park are very fragile, and slow to recover from any damage. A vehicle track will take decades to disappear! Therefore, please drive only on established roads and tracks. Do not drive cross-country in the park! Do not drive in wet conditions, as tracks will suffer more damage. If your driver does drive cross-country, insist that he return to the road. Please do not park more than 50 meters from an established road or track.
6. Camping in the park is allowed for a maximum of 14 days. For longer stays special permission should be obtained from the park director.
7. Equipment or vehicles may not be left unattended more than 24 hours without permission from the park director.
8. No hunting or firearms are allowed inside the park.
9. Fishing is allowed only with a permit obtained from the local government administration. A 2-day permit costs $4 for international visitors, and 500 Tug. for Mongolian citizens.
10. Gathering plants and insects is allowed only if a special permit has been obtained from the park administration.
Limited Use Zones
11. Hiking and horseback riding are allowed throughout the limited use zones, but please stay on established trails to protect vegetation and minimize erosion. The zones are shown on park maps.
12. Camping, hiking, and horseback riding are allowed in the limited use zones of the park without special registration, if entrance fees are paid.
13. Camping is only allowed:
• At least 50 meters from lakes, streams, and springs;
• In grassy, gravel, or bare areas;
• At least 300 meters from gers, buildings, and livestock corrals, unless you have permission to camp closer.
Tourism Zones
14. Limited use of the tourism zones is allowed as long as natural and aesthetic values are not degraded. Tourism zones within the park are shown on park maps.
15. All visitors traveling on foot or horseback in the tourism zones must register at the entrance station or park headquarters, and follow designated travel routes.
16. All camping rules for the limited use zones apply.
Core Zones
17. The core zones within the park are areas where use by humans is severely restricted to protect nature. No entry is allowed without written permission of the park director. The zones are shown on park maps.
The natural scenery of Lake Khovsgol is beautiful to photograph. Feel free to take advantage of it, but please do not photograph the people living in the park or their property without their permission. Be respectful!
Safety Advice

• Please do not drive faster than 25 km/hour on any roads within the park.
• Do not travel alone within the park.
• Do not swim alone in the park.
• Travel with a local Mongolian guide when in the park. They can help you understand the people, wildlife and vegetation of the area, as well as direct you safely through the park.
• When camping, always hang food from a branch or store it in a sturdy container to protect it from rodents and other animals.
Services within the Park
There are two towns  in Khovsgol National Park. During past 5-6 years hospitality infrastructure intensively develops in Lake Khovsgol area
Hatgal, at the southern end of the lake, has two small hotels, a gasoline station, three restaurants, a telephone/post office, a medical clinic, a bakery, and several small shops. You can also find knowledgeable local guides here through the Guide Association, and rent horses and saddles. The Park headquarters are in Hatgal.
Hankhl, at the northern end of the lake, has a small hotel and restaurant, gasoline station, telephone/post office, and a medical clinic. The distance by road from Hatgal to Hankhl is 200 kilometers. It is in poor condition, especially during the summer rainy season. Hankhl is located about 25 kilometers from the Russian border, but only Russian and Mongolian nationals are allowed to cross it.


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