LAKE HOVSGOL NATIONAL PARK
- Mountain & Forests
Life thrives in Lake Hovsgol National Park. Among 68 species of mammals, the Park is home to marmots, argali sheep, ibex, brown bear, wolf, Siberian moose, sable, roe deer and perhaps even the snow leopard. Winter challenges wildlife with temperatures far below freezing and snow that stops plant growth and covers vegetation. So the brief summer season provides a quick but critical opportunity to breed and gain strength, and many of these animals might be seen with young as they eat and feed in preparation for another winter. Birdlife is likewise varied and interesting. Most of the 244 species that visit the Park migrate long distances between their nesting grounds here and warmer winter refuges in distant countries. Park visitors often see eagles, kites, swans, cranes, and a wide variety of ducks and songbirds. Because Lake Hovsgol contains low levels of nutrients and high water clarity, it has low productivity and its fish community is quite limited, especially when compared to that of Lake Baikal. Nine fish species currently inhabit Lake Hovsgol. Species of interest to fishermen include Eurasian perch, burbot, lenok, and the Hovsgol grayling, a unique endangered species found nowhere else on earth.
The landscape around Lake Hovsgol is one of jagged mountains and forests. Snow-capped peaks of two mountain ranges look down on the Lake. The Munkh Saridag, borders Russia on the northern edge of the Park, the highest peak in the Park, Burenkhaan/Monkh Saridag (3,492m). The Horidal Saridag range lies to the south and west of the Lake and is the location of the Horidal Saridag Strictly Protected Area, established in 1997 to preserve high mountain wilderness and endangered animals such as the argali and ibex. Public access to this Area is very limited.
The Park now includes the complete watershed of Lake Hovsgol and contains the transition zone between the Central Asian Steppe, comprised of forests and grasslands, and the Siberian Taiga, which is dominated by forests of larch underlain with permafrost. Mountain meadows are especially beautiful when summer wildflowers add many colors to the landscape. Approximately 800 species of trees and plants have been found in the Lake Hovsgol basin; more than 80 have been used for traditional medicine and 10 for human consumption.
Lake Hovsgol has been the home of nomadic pastoralists for thousands of years. Their lifestyles represent some of the most enduring traditions of Mongolia. Because the harsh climate, which is dominated by long and very cold winters, severely limits agriculture, semi-nomadic herding remains a dominant way of life. Herders and their animals, sheep, goats, yak-cow mixes, and horses, have long been part of the ecosystem in and around the Park. Small family groups and their animals move around and sometimes in and out of the Park based upon season and availability of various grasses needed for grazing.
These present-day nomads of the steppe and taiga continue a progression of religious beliefs that began thousands of years ago. Hundreds of Bronze- Age ritual mounds, and deer stones, are found throughout the region, symbolizing a cultural history that witnessed the transition from early forms of worship and sacrifice to Shamanism, a belief strongly guided by a reverence for nature that is still practiced in this remote area.
Lake Hovsgol is sacred to Mongolians, who call it “Dalai Eej”- the “Mother Sea.” To the north, the highest peak of the Munkh Saridal Range, Burehkhaan Uul is known as “the Father” and, to its left, another peak, Khatan Khan Uul, is known as “the Mother.” Five additional peaks, Sarankhuu, Narankhuu, Odkhuu, Galkhuu, Eredenkhuu, located on the left side of Burehkhaan Uul, are considered to be children of the Mother and Father. Mongolians have a strong spiritual belief that the Mother Sea and the Father Mountain are the source of life.