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Before the Devastation of Jiuzhai Valley (九寨沟)

Updated: Dec 17, 2019


Nuorilang Waterfall, Jiuzhaigou Valley

On 8 August 2017, a magnitude-7.0 earthquake devastated Jiuzhai Valley National Park (or Jiuzhaigou, 九寨沟), a natural UNESCO World Heritage Site in Sichuan, China. The earthquake destroyed some infrastructures and natural sites in the national park, including the famous Nuorilang Waterfall, the prime attraction in Jiuzhai Valley.

Fortunately, the earthquake struck after 9pm when the number of people in the park is not as many as during the day — the popular attraction attracted about 40,000 visitors a day.

The park is now closed and nobody knows when it will reopen again. While restoration to man-made infrastructures can be done easily, the natural sites will require many years for nature to re-beautify its newly created landscapes. As a matter of fact, the natural landscapes of Jiuzhai Valley were shaped by earthquakes hundreds of years ago. It's a natural cycle.

While we lament the lost of lives and a beautiful heaven on Earth, let's reminisce the beauty of Jiuzhai Valley — during an autumn in 2009 (a year after the Wenchuan Great Earthquake in 2008, also in Sichuan province).

The Jiuzhai Valley

Jiuzhai Valley literally means "Nine Village Valley" due to the nine Tibetan villages in and around the valley. It consists of 3 valleys in a "Y" shape. The park entrance is at the bottom end of the "Y". From the park entrance to the intersection point of the "Y" before the road forked is Shuzheng Valley. Branching to the right is Rize Valley and Zechawa Valley is on the left. There are transports along the roads to ferry visitors to far away spots.

Most visitors will start with Rize Valley, followed by Zechawa Valley and Shuzheng Valley last. Nuorilang Waterfall is at the intersection point (well, you can say that all roads lead to the waterfall). The last part of the visit will be to walk from the waterfall down the valley to the park entrance. It is difficult to hop on a transport towards the end of the day when everyone is leaving the park.

First Fork: Rize Valley (日则沟)

Most visitors will start with Rize Valley as the 18Km valley has the most sites. The furthest end point is at the Primeval Forest (原始森林). For one day trip, most visitor will skip the forest and drop off at the Grass Lake instead to save time.

Grass Lake (芳草海)

The Grass Lake is at an altitude of 2,910 metres above sea level. The reeds in the lake were green during spring, with flower blossoms in summer, golden yellow in autumn and crystal white in winter.

Grass Lake

Arrow Bamboo Lake (箭竹海)

Arrow Bamboo Lake got its name due to the arrow bamboos growing around it. It is also a very picturesque lake, especially when the water is calm.

Arrow Bamboo Lake
Arrow Bamboo Lake

Arrow Bamboo Waterfall (箭竹海瀑布)

Situated in Arrow Bamboo Lake, the waterfall is 7 metres high and spans 150 metres.

Arrow Bamboo Waterfall

Scenic walking path from Arrow Bamboo Lake to Panda Lake.

Walkway along lake

Panda Lake (熊猫海)

There used to be giant pandas going to the lake to drink and hence its name. The same mirror image of the surrounding on calm water is breathtaking.

Panda Lake

Panda Lake Waterfall (熊猫海瀑布)

The water in Panda Lake will flow down Panda Lake Waterfall, a cascaded waterfall of 78 metres.

Panda Lake Waterfall

Five-Flower Lake (五花海)

Five-Flower Lake is one of the most beautiful lakes in Jiuzhai Valley. The clear and blue shallow water and old fallen trees in the water give the lake its heavenly beauty. This is a favourite spot for many brides- and grooms-to-be to have their wedding photo shoots.

Five-Flower Lake
Five-Flower Lake
Five-Flower Lake
Five-Flower Lake

Pearl Shoals (珍珠滩)

Pearl Shoals has thin sheet of water flowing down a gentle sloping area to end at a waterfall.

Pearl Shoals

Pearl Shoals Waterfall (珍珠滩瀑布)

Pearl Shoals Waterfall is about 21 metres high and spanning 160 metres.

Pearl Shoals Waterfall

Another beautiful grass lake between Pearl Shoals Waterfall and the next lake — Mirror Lake.

Grass lake near Mirror Lake

Mirror Lake (镜海)

As the name implies, this lake is so calm that it can reflect anything above water (not when there are winds or rains).

Mirror Lake
Mirror Lake

Second Fork: Zechawa Valley (则查洼沟)

Long Lake (长海)