Flanked by the majestic Himalayan range, stunningly picturesque Dachigam nestles in the Kashmir Valley

Dachigam National Park

Dachigam is the world’s last stronghold of the Hangul, or Kashmir Stag, a subspecies of the European Red Deer. It was on the verge of extinction in 1970’s with less than 200 individuals left.

Strict management has succeeded in saving the ungulate from extinction, but further conservation efforts continue.

Flanked by the majestic Himalayan range, stunningly picturesque Dachigam nestles in the Kashmir Valley

Dachigam’s temperate and broad-leaved forests and grassy meadows constitute nearly half the catchment area of the Dal Lake. The Dagwan River originates in the park’s higher reaches to flow through its rocky and forested slopes before draining into the Dal Lake.

Visit between May-September to see its upper slopes laden with flowers, or in autumn to see its forests turning orange, russet, scarlet and yellow.

Ecology

The royal family of Kashmir first offered protection to the area as a game reserve in the early 1900s. Over the years, adjoining grassy slopes and high-altitude lakes were included in the reserve, so that today the altitudinal range of the park, demarcated into Upper and Lower Dachigam, extends from 1,700 to 4,200 m. Silver birch, blue pine and juniper mingle with pasture, scrubland and barren rock in the higher reaches, while fir, spruce and pine forest the middle altitudes, turning to broad-leaved oak, walnut and horse-chestnut with plenty of undergrowth in the lower region.

Himalayan Black Bear feast on the fruiting oak, walnut and horse-chestnut between late August and early October before hibernating for the winter.

The upper reaches become inaccessible in winter and most of the wildlife descends lower.

This is an excellent park for trekking and camping. Sightings of Snow Leopard have been reported, but it is more likelihood of good Leopard and Hill Fox sightings, and of over 150 species of birds including Himalayan Monal and Koklass Pheasant. Dachigam is the breeding ground for several species of warblers that winter in peninsular India.

Experiences

The Hangul stag is a most impressive sight. His widespread antlers are frequent sight in the forest and surrounding grassy slopes. A big Hangul stag can be a very dark brown, especially with his thick winter coat, but turns paler in summer. There are usually five points on each antler but up to eight points have been reported. Fawns tend to have spotted coats.

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