Primeval forests, volcanic ruins, rivers, lakes, and gorges present a stunning natural scenery at Arxan.
There is a national forest park with high mountains and deep valleys in Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region called Arxan National Forest Park. It is also a national 5A-rated tourist attraction at the core of the
Arxan Scenic Area. The park is located at the southwestern foot of the Greater Hinggan Range and covers a total area of 103,149 hectares. The average altitude of the hills around the park is 1,100 meters and the average annual temperature is -3.2oC. The park also boasts a number of high crater lakes and a variety of lava landscapes. The forest coverage here reaches 80 percent. It is also home to an abundance of wild flora and fauna.
The Arxan Scenic Area has various types of natural attractions, which include the Heavenly Lake, Unfrozen River, Three-Pond Gorge, Earth Lake, Shitang Forest, Turtle Back Rock, Azalea Lake, Camel Hump Ridge, and Grand Canyon.
The Heavenly Lake lies in the arms of lush forests in the Arxan Scenic Area.
The Arxan Heavenly Lake is one of the most famous alpine lakes in China. The 1,323.2-meter-high oval-shaped lake measures 450 meters from east to west, and 300 meters from north to south, covering an area of 13.8 hectares. It is the third highest alpine lake in China. This giant crater lake was formed 300,000 years ago during a huge explosion when the upwelling magma collided with the underground water.
This body of water is noted for the following four features: First, it has no overflow of water following long or torrential rains, it does not dry up during a drought, and the water level has not changed for many years. Second, despite the fact that there are no rivers flowing into or out of the lake, the water remains pure and clean. Third, there are no fish in the water, while there are plenty in its sister lake located a few miles way. The fourth feature is related to a legend that the lake is so deep that it extends to the core of the Earth.
At the top of the hill where Heavenly Lake is located, a line of tall trees around the lake obstructs visitors’ panoramic view of the surrounding countryside. Some tourists bring drones with them to capture an aerial view of the lake. From the sky, the lake looks like a piece of jade set on the summit of a majestic mountain.
In addition to the Heavenly Lake, another famous crater lake in Arxan is the Earth Lake, which is the only lake among the various crater lakes in Arxan that is located below the ground level. It is located about six kilometers southeast of Heavenly Lake and was formed about 100,000 years ago. Covering an area of 1.25 hectares and reaching a depth of up to 39-50 meters, it is 150 meters long and 100 meters wide. The pool got its name because its water surface is lower than the ground and its water level changes with the seasons. It is also called an “Immortal Maid Lake” for its breathtaking natural beauty.
The Camel Hump Ridge Heavenly Lake is located about 10 kilometers northeast of the former Greater Hinggan forestry farm. The lake was formed about 300,000 years ago and extends about 450 meters from east to west and 800 meters from north to south. With an area of about 26 hectares, it is the largest and deepest crater lake in Arxan. From a distance, it looks like a camel lying on its stomach, while the shape of the lake resembles a human left foot when viewed from above.
An interesting attraction for tourists to see here is a stone called pumice, which can float in water. Formed during a volcanic eruption, it is a porous volcanic rock. On larger stones, one can see more spot pore patterns and burn marks.
The Arxan National Forest Park presents a bright, lively, and tranquil ambiance in summertime.
Unfrozen River and Three-Pond Gorge
In addition to crater lakes, visitors should also see a river in Arxan named the Unfrozen River. The 20-kilometer-long river has never frozen over wintertime, thus the name of “Unfrozen River” given to it by the locals.
The geothermal heat near the river is the reason why the river remains unfrozen during winter. When temperatures reach below zero, all the rivers and streams in Arxan freeze over, but this section of the river remains hot and flowing. Mist rises from the river and is transformed into crystal clear ice once it touches the branches of trees on the river bank, rendering it a noted winter scenery in Arxan.
During winter months, the stones exposed on the river surface are often covered with ice and snow, but the water in the river is not affected by the weather at all. With heat-insulated rocks at the bottom of the river, green grass grows in the water, making natural feed for cattle, sheep, and other livestock. For this reason, the river is known as the “water pasture.”
Lying to the south of the Arxan Heavenly Lake is another attraction – the Three-Pond Gorge. The three-kilometer valley is composed of steep and imposing peaks in the south and huge volcanic lava rocks in the north. Volcanic rocks can be spotted everywhere on the river bank and in the middle of the turbulent water raging through the valley. There are three ponds in this area: Crouching Bull Pond, where the river flow is quite calm, and there are giant rocks sticking out of the water making it appear like a group of cattle resting along the river; Tiger Rock Pond, where the river is densely covered with huge rocks of different shapes, looking like some tigers playing in the river; and Yuexin Pond lies at the end of the valley, where the river widens.
In addition to the river, there are various types of breathtaking scenery in different seasons throughout the year. When spring comes, visitors can enjoy themselves by looking at azalea blossoms, and during summertime, the lingering snow and frost in this section of the river present a stunning view for tourists.
All flora and fauna in Arxan sit silently surrouned by a carpet of snow during winter months.
Shitang Forest is one of the wonders of the Greater Hinggan Range, named after the dense thicket of trees growing on the volcanic lava and the numerous ponds dotting the area. They are some geological remains of the Quaternary volcanic eruption. Its geological structure, soil, vegetation, and biological features have kept intact biological diversity and complexity, giving it high scientific research and protection value.
Shitang Forest spans an area of about 200 square kilometers. The ground was made of lava after a volcanic eruption. After several thousand years of weathering and water erosion, the surface has become a unique natural formation. What is even more surprising is that there are dense trees growing on the ground that barely has any earth. Besides trees, unique rocks, meadows, and clear creeks also add to the beauty of this forest.
1. Since the area of the scenic spot is very large, parking passes are valid for two days.
2. The visitor reception service is very visitor-friendly, tourists can get tickets at the entrance of the scenic spot and take the sightseeing bus to the park to each attraction.
3. Visitors can also drive their own cars through the scenic park. Prior to entering the park, drive-in visitors need to fill out a check-in form. Private vehicles are allowed on the main road, but cannot enter the attractions located on the side roads. Parking is not allowed on either side of the main road, requiring all cars to park in the service area. There are two service areas in the scenic area, Heavenly Lake Service Area and Xing’an Service Area. Usually, people park at the Heavenly Lake Service Area on the first day of their trip to visit Heavenly Lake, Three-Pond Gorge, Earth Lake, and Shitang Forest, and then park their cars at the Xing’an Service Area on the second day while they visit the Grand Canyon and Camel Hump Ridge.