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Khar Us Nuur National Park/Mongolia

Introducing Khar Us Nuur National Park

About 40km to the east of Khovd City is Khar Us Nuur (Dark Water Lake), the second-largest freshwater lake (15,800 sq km) in Mongolia – but with an average depth of only 4m. Khovd Gol flows into this lake, creating a giant marsh delta. Khar Us Nuur is the perfect habitat for wild ducks, geese, wood grouse, partridges and seagulls, including rare relict gulls and herring gulls – and by late summer a billion or two of everyone’s friend, the common mosquito.

Bird-watchers, however, may be a little disappointed: the lake is huge, difficult to reach because of the marshes and locals know very little, if anything, about the birdlife. The best idea would be to go with one of the national park workers and head for the delta where the Khovd Gol enters the lake in May or late August.

The easiest place to see the lake is from the main Khovd–Altai road at the southern tip of the lake, where a metal watchtower has been set up to view the nearby reed islands.

The outflow from Khar Us Nuur goes into a short river called Chono Khairkhan, which flows into another freshwater lake, Khar Nuur (Black Lake), home to some migratory pelicans. The southern end of Khar Nuur flows into Dörgön Nuur, which is a large alkaline lake good for swimming. The eastern side of Dörgön Nuur is an area of bone-dry desert and extensive sand dunes.

Just to the south, and between the Khar and Khar Us lakes, are the twin peaks of Jargalant Khairkhan Uul (3796m) and Yargaitin Ekh Uul (3464m). You can see the massif as you drive to Ölgii from Altai in Gov-Altai aimag. With the help of a guide you’ll find numerous springs in these mountains. The canyons also hide a 22m high waterfall.

In 2004, 22 takhi (Przewalski’s horse) were introduced to the Khomyn Tal buffer zone and became the third herd of this critically endangered horse to be re-established in Mongolia.