Jiuzhaiguo or Jiuzhai Valley is a major feature of the Sichuan Scenic Area, located 350 km north of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province. Jiuzhaigou is at the northeastern end of this scenic area in the Min Shan mountains and is part of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang Autonomous Prefecture. It is known as the habitat of giant pandas, although it is extremely rare to ever see a panda in the park, and mainly for its many multi-level waterfalls and colorful lakes. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1992.The valley includes the catchment area of three gullies, which due to their large size are often called valleys themselves, and is one of the sources of the Jialing River, part of the Yangtze River system.
Jiuzhaigou’s best-known feature is its dozens of blue, green and turquoise-colored lakes. The local Tibetan people call them “son of the sea”. Originating in glacial activity, they were dammed by rockfalls and other natural phenomena, then solidified by processes of carbonate deposition. Some lakes have a high concentration of calcium carbonate, and their water is very clear so that the bottom is often visible even at high depths. The lakes vary in color and aspect according to their depths, residues, and surroundings.
The Primeval Forest (原始森林)
The Primeval Forest is a preserved ancient woodland. It is fronted by spectacular views of the surrounding mountains and cliffs, including the 500 m high blade-shaped Sword Rock (剑岩). Sword Rock stands at the top of the 18km long Rize Valley (日则沟), the south western branch of Jiuzhaiguo.
Rize Valley (日则沟)
Swan Lake (天鹅海) is a 2250 m long, 125 m wide picturesque lake named for its visiting swans and ducks.
Arrow Bamboo Lake (箭竹海), covering an area of 170,000 m², is a shallow lake with a depth of 6 m. It lies at an elevation of 2,618 m, and was a main feature site for the 2002 Chinese film Hero.
Panda Lake (熊猫海) features curious color patterns of blue and green. Giant Pandas were said to have come to this lake to drink, though there have been no sightings for many years. The lake empties into the multi-stream, multi-level Panda Waterfalls, dropping 78 m in three steps.
Nuorilang Falls (诺日朗瀑布)
The waterfalls near the junction of the valleys, are 20 m high and 320 m wide. They are reportedly the widest highland waterfall in China, the widest travertine-topped waterfall in the world, and one of the symbols of Jiuzhaigou.
Shuzheng Falls (树正瀑布)
Located in Jiuzhaigou’s Shuzheng Valley, they stand 25 m tall and 72 m wide. Its waters flow down from Tiger Lake above in steep steps, broken up by the foliage, moss-covered rocks and trees that create the illusion of a graceful, moving curtain.
Mirror Lake (镜海)
Mirror Lake is so named because of its ability to reflect the images of the surrounding mountains and forests. The lake at an altitude of 2,410 m is in a sheltered section of the valley running east west which produces its glassy reflective surface.
Long Lake (长海)
The crescent-shaped lake is the highest, largest and deepest lake in Jiuzhaigou, measuring 7.5 km in length and up to 103 m in depth. It reportedly has no outgoing waterways, getting its water from snowmelt and losing it from seepage. It lies at the top of the 18km long Zechawa Valley, 则查洼沟. Local folklore talks about a monster lurking in its depths.
Reed Lake (芦苇海)
Reed Lake is a 1375 m-long, reed-covered marsh with a clear turquoise brook also known as the Jade Ribbon zigzaging through it. The contrast is particularly striking in the autumn when the reeds turn golden yellow.