The Zoige Wetland, home to roughly 1 million hectares of an incredibly diverse biosphere, has the distinction of earning the top spot on the Chinese National Geographic Magazine’s list of the six most beautiful wetlands in China. Within its vast boundaries are lakes, peat bogs, wet grass and Carex swamps, all of which make up three distinct areas within the Zoige Wetland: Hongyuang Riganqiao Wetland Nature Reserve, Gaihai National Nature Reserve, and Zoige National Nature Reserve. Experts say that Zoige Wetland is one of the few places where you can find untouched peat swamp, perhaps the largest in the world.

An Unusual River Flow Feeds the Wetlands

Zoige Wetland is located in Sichuan and Gansu provinces, in the northeastern region of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau. It is nourished by the Yellow River which begins in the Kulan Mountains’ glaciers. The River flows southeast, running between the Amne Machin and Bayan Har mountains. After around 700 kilometers, the River suddenly changes course and begins to flow in a northwest direction, returning to its source. A long history of shifting tectonics has resulted in a landscape that forces the River to turn northwest in order to continue its downward flow. This abrupt about-face takes place right in the heart of Zoige Wetland. The consequence is the abundant water one finds in the Wetland, making it a perfect nature reserve.

More than 400 species of animals and 200 species of plant life can be found in Zoige Wetland. There are approximately 22 endangered and protected breeds of animals there. The terrain and abundant water source are especially perfect for birds, creating a hospitable environment for an estimated population of between 7,000 and 8,000 fowl. The most popular among these is probably the black-neck cranes who stop in Zoige Wetlands for breeding before continuing their journey to northern Tibet. As many as 900 black-neck cranes visit Zoige Wetland every spring.