The fairy tale world of China's Jiuzhai Valley
March 11, 2011 | Posted by Chris
Deep China's hinterland wilderness, in northern Sichuan Province, lies one of China's great natural treasures. Called Jiuzhai Valley -- also known as Jiuzhaigou National Park -- it is a nature reserve known for its many multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes. In popular Chinese imagination and among promoters, the park is given the reputation as a "fairy tale world." In 1992 it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Jiuzhai Valley is found at the southern end of the Minshan mountain range, 205 miles north of Chendgdu, the capital of Sichuan Province. In all, the valley has an area of about 450 square miles -- a little less than the area of Los Angeles -- and ranges in elevation from about 6,000 to about 10,000 feet.
As Jiuzhai Valley is situated high above sea level and often quite humid, its climate is typically cool and wet, especially in the summer months of July and August, when 80% of its annual rainfall takes places. Because of the rainy summer season, autumn -- particularly October -- is considered the best time to visit Jiuzhai Valley.
Famous blue lakes
The famous blue lakes of Jiuzhai Valley, above
Jiuzhai Valley may perhaps be best-known for scores of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes. Local Tibetan people refer to the lakes as "Haizi," meaning "son of the sea" in Chinese. These lakes were orginally formed by glaciers and reinforced by rock falls and other geological occurances over its long natural history. Calcium carbonate is abundantly found in the lakes, helping to contribute to their colors and surprising clarity: visitors are often delighted to discover the bottoms of the lakes are clearly visible even at depths of over 60 feet. The color of lakes, meanwhile, is known to depend upon the depths, surroundings, and different chemical residues found in the lakes.