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Five Flower Lake, Sichuan, China

Also known as: Wuhua Hai, Wuhua Lake

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China's Jiuzhaigou National Park is a protected nature reserve with a beautiful and pristine collection of natural wonders. Among those are many placid and sparkling lakes, including Five Flower Lake, as well as 17 waterfalls, dozens of species of exotic animals, and steep and rugged valleys that seem untouched by humanity--and are truly worth the time it takes to visit this remote location. Jiuzhaigou National Park is located in the county of Jiuzhai in the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Prefecture in the southwestern province of Sichuan.

Jiuzhaigou Valley was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992; and in 1997, under UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Reserve Programme, the valley was formally recognized as a member of the World Network of Biosphere Reserves in Asia and the Pacific. Jiuzhaigou Valley, which covers more than 278 square miles (720 square kilometers), was created by many forces of nature over time: from the glacial lakes to the hydrological valleys, to the fault lines that this area rests on with their unpredictable tectonic activity, it is an area of incredible elevations and stunning views, made of three smaller valleys within it: the Rize Valley, the Zechawa Valley and the Shuzheng Valley.

Five Flower Lake is in the Rize Valley, with three sides closed off by the surrounding mountains. It is situated in the northern part of the province of Sichuan, which is geographically close to the center of mainland China. Although tourism in this part of the huge country is very popular, the area is still rural. The national park's main goal it to preserve the area, so the rules in place allow visitors to view the unforgettable natural features up close but do not allow contact with the lakes or other unique features. Instead, visitors are encouraged to take a walking tour of each feature to get up close, as well as capture the trip's moments in photographs. The park is kept in immaculate condition, with stringent rules in place to preserve the area's sensational beauty.

Five Flower Lake, also called Wuhua Hai or Wuhua Lake, is one of dozens of natural freshwater lakes in the Rize Valley that are part of noteworthy tours of the area. Although it is only an average-sized lake with an area of 22.2 acres (90,000 square meters) and only 16.4 feet (5 meters) at its greatest depth, it is considered to be a jewel of the Jiuzhaigou region. Looking into its crystal-clear waters, the lake bottom is plainly visible. The lakebed is very blue and very clear, and the bottom of the lake is covered with ancient trees that have fallen in and settled there over time. The lakes in this area have unusual compositions such that their contents tend to be preserved in the crystal waters. The shallow lake has an observation area that allows visitors an excellent close-up view of this memorable feature. Its surface is mirror-like and the waters appear very still.

Although Five Flower Lake is found in a section of national park that features more than 100 multicolored lakes nestled in snowy mountains, bamboo forests and dense high-mountain deciduous forests, it is often the one that locals and tourists enjoy the most and return to again and again. When viewed from up close, the deep blues and greens and icy clear waters are impressive on their own; however, when sunlight reflects on the water, or where certain minerals are found in higher concentrations, its waters also appear jade green or very dark green, as well as light yellow on occasion. It's said that the colors resemble a peacock's feathers. The name of the lake is derived from the idea that at least five distinct colors, which make it resemble a flower garden featuring five intense colors of flowers, can be seen at any time. In China, these gorgeous lakes with deep blue, bright turquoise and emerald green waters are called haizi, meaning "sons of the sea."

Local legends say that Five Flower Lake is a holy lake; the whole valley is often called a fairyland. This lake's myth can be attributed to the steam fault that was discovered within the lake. Long Lake (also known as Chang Lake) is a larger lake connected to Five Flower Lake via this underwater tunnel; it allows water from a subterranean hot spring to fill Five Flower Lake--and therefore it becomes unlikely that this lake will freeze over, even when all the lakes surrounding it do. Likewise, Five Flower Lake does not dry up when its neighboring lakes do. Studies have also shown that the tunnel through which the water travels is heavy with travertine, which leaches into the water during passage. So although the water technically flows from Long Lake to Five Flower Lake, the lime content is more than 20 times higher in this charmed body of water. Visitors who are looking for it can often see water bubbling up from what appears to be a deep well in the bottom of the lake, which is the entryway for the lime-rich water.

Five Flower Lake and its surrounds is home to more than 140 bird species, exotic plants and animals, as well as the endangered giant panda, golden snub-nosed monkey and tapir. Although its hospitable temperate climate is enjoyable to visitors, the valley's protected status allows forested valleys and lush grasslands to grow undisturbed by major development. Within the Jiuzhaigou Valley, only about 1,000 resident reside. The name of the valley means "Valley of Nine Villages," which acknowledges the nine ancient Tibetan settlements once found in the area. Aba County has about 70,000 residents, with more than three-dozen monasteries present. The city of Aba is the prefecture"s major transportation center, which allows many tourists and vacationers to visit this otherwise-isolated area.

Jiuzhaigou Valley is a major attraction at the northeastern end of the Sichuan province's scenic region. Its location is only about 62 miles (100 kilometers) north of Chendu, which is the capital city of Sichuan. At 8,110 feet (2,472 meters), Five Flower Lake is within the Min Shan mountain range, in the series of natural lakes and multiple-level waterfalls that make up some of the most indescribable scenery in the world. Panda Lake feeds directly into Five Flower Lake; the short Peacock River leads out of the lake and feeds the Pearl Shoal Waterfall, one of the most well-loved waterfalls in the park. Visitors can use the sturdy wooden walkways to descend alongside the waterfalls and continue on to observe the next attractions up close.

Travelers to this area often stay in Jiuzhaigou, and the area is much more accessible now than it used to be. Transportation by long-distance bus route is available in the area. For those who are interested in flying, the Jiuzhaigou Airport is located not far from the reserve. Local goods, foods and other cultural bonuses await travelers to Jiuzhaigou, including renowned performances by local artists and dancers. Souvenirs range from artisan-crafted jewelry to decor and clothing. Hiking and camping are available in Zaru Valley in the national park; camping is not allowed in the Jiuzhaigou Valley, nor is lodging of any kind available. However, close by in Jiuzhaigou are many available hotels and accommodations, as are resorts and youth hostels. Because this area has gained great popularity in recent years, it's important to plan well in advance. The national park is open all year, so tourists who are planning a trip to this general area should make a point to travel to this valley and experience its otherworldly landscapes.


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