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Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary

The Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary is also known as the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. This national sanctuary is located in the state of Uttarakhand in India. The main purpose of this sanctuary is to protect the endangered Himalayan Musk Deer and hence the alternate mane was given to it. It spreads over an area of 975 sq km and is the largest protected area in the western Himalayas. It is known all over the world as a biodiversity hot spot and is considered to be extremely important due to the many species of flora and fauna that it houses. The elevation of this sanctuary, located in the highlands of the mighty Himalayas, ranges from 1160 m (3,810 feet) above sea level near Phata to around 7,068 m (23,189 feet) above sea level at the Chaukhamba peak. This region was notified as a reserve forest between the years 1916 and 1920. On January 21, 1972 the reserve forest was changed to become a sanctuary. IUCN designated to be a habitat or species management area. It has expanded from 967 to 975 ha (2,390-2,409 acres) since then.

This sanctuary spreads across a landscape that is geographically diverse and a transitional environment. According to reports by IUCN, around 44.4% to 48.8% of the area of the sanctuary is under forest cover, alpine meadows cover 7.7% of the area, 42.1% is either rocky or covered with snow throughout the year and 1.5% of the area was earlier covered with forests but has been degraded. The sanctuary’s name is derived from the revered and very famous Hindu Temple of Kedarnath which lies just outside the northern border of the sanctuary. The route stretching for 14 km from Ghauri Khund to Kedarnath Temple at a height of 3,584 m or 11,759 feet, passes entirely through the sanctuary.


The Kedarnath Wild Life sanctuary has a lot of temple within its premises. The Kedarnath Temple is the most historically significant among these temples. This temple is visited by several devotees each year. This temple has its origin dating back to the 8th century. Strong legends are related to other temples as well. All these legends go back to the days of the Mahabharata. The other temples in this area are Ansuya Devi, Mandani, Tungnath, Rudranath and Madhyamaheshwar. The Bhotiya imbibe the local Hindu culture along with some Tibetan links. These people are an important part of the valleys and they mainly have pastoral work culture.  The region abounds in wildlife.


The Kedarnath Wild life sanctuary is located in the Chamoli and the Rudraprayag districts of the Indian state of Uttarakhand. This sanctuary is characterized by glaciers in the higher altitudes. Deep V shaped valleys have been formed out of these glaciers over the years of glacial activity. Rivers Mandakini, Biera, Menan and kali form river valleys in the north-south direction.


The entire region comes under the distinctive and typical sub arctic climate. The summer rains due to the South West summer monsoons give an average of 3.093mm or 122 in or annual precipitation or rainfall. The high amount of precipitation received by the sanctuary is due to the hill ranges that are located towards the south of the sanctuary. The height of these hills is around 3,000 m or 9,800 feet and they are open without any significant rain shadow effect. In the year 1979-81, the rainfall was recorded to be 3,050 mm or 120 in in and around Tungnath. The monsoon rain that lasts from June to September is recorded to be around 81% and the snow precipitation during the winter season (December to March) is almost 11%. In summers, the temperature is around 25 degree Celsius or 77 degree Fahrenheit and the maximum temperatures are recorded in the month May or June. During this time the weather is pleasant and mild. The lowest temperature recorded during winters in this region is around -10 degree Celsius or 14 degree Fahrenheit and it is experienced during the first half of January. During this period, the upper regions of the sanctuary and nearby upper regions receive heavy snowfall and as a result to weather is severely cold.

Flora and Fauna


This sanctuary is renowned for being one of the world’s richest hot spots when it comes to bio diversity. In the middle altitudes, it is covered with temperate forests. Higher or upper regions are dotted with sub alpine and alpine coniferous forests. As the altitude increases further, the alpine grasslands and high altitude Bugyals cover the region. The varied topography and weather of the Kedarnath Sanctuary has supported dense forests of oak, chir pine, rhododendrons, birch as well as alpine meadows along with numerous beautiful Himalayan flowering plants. Carex Lacta and C. Munda are two sedges that have been noticed to grow in the Tungnath region. These two sedges were known to grow only in western region of Nepal before this.


A rich variety of faunal, aqua faunal and avi faunal species are found in the Kedarnath sanctuary. Some carnivorous mammals found here are fox (Vulpes vulpes), yellow-throated Marten (Martes flavigula), common leopard (Panthera pardus) (T), jackal (Canis aureus), snow leopard (Uncia uncia), Himalayan black bear (Selenarctos thibetanus) (V) and leopard cat (Felis bengalensis). Some of the larger mammals or ungulates found here are the Indian muntjac, Wild boar (Sus scrofa) and the Himalayan musk deer (Moschus leucogaster). This region is also home to primates like common langur (Presbytis entellus) and rhesus macaque (Macaca mulatta). The Royle's Mountain Vole (Alticola roylei), Hodgsons's Brown-toothed Shrew (Soriculus sp.) and red giant flying squirrel (Petaurista petaurista) are some of the smaller mammals that live here. Species of reptiles that are found here include Boulenger's keelback (Amphiesma parallelum) and the Himalayan pit viper (Gloydius himalayanus syn. Ancistrodon himalayanus).


This sanctuary is a habitat for a lot of birds as well. Some important species that can be sighted here are Nepal Tree-creeper (Certhia nipalensis), Kalij Pheasant (Lophura leucomelanos), Little Pied Flycatcher (Ficedula westermanni), Koklass Pheasant (Pucrasia macrolopha) and the Grey-cheeked Warbler (Seicercus poliogenys). Apart from these birds, the Himalayan Monal (Lophophorus impejanus), which is the state bird of Uttarakhand is also found here. This is an extremely endangered species.


The Madakini River flows through the Kedarnath Wild Life Sanctuary and it is home to a huge number of species of water animals. A few of the fish found here are Gara spp., Schizothorax sp., Nemacheilus sp. nov., Balitora brucei, mahseer Tor tor, Glyptothorax spp., Labeo spp., and Barilius spp.


The musk deer is one of the most significant species of animals found in the Kedarnath Sanctuary. It is this animal after which the sanctuary has been alternatively named as the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. The large scale poaching of this specie for commercial and economic profits has led to the decline on the population of the Musk deer to over 40% in the last 21 years. This has resulted in dictating the Government’s decision to declare it as an endangered animal in 1973 (Halloway, 1973). The Musk deer was enlisted as vulnerable in the red data book of IUCN in 1972. This animal is found at an elevation as low as 2,500 m of 8,200 feet in the Himalayan belt in Uttarakhand and also in the Himalayan belt in other parts of Northern India like Jammu and Kashmir and Sikkim. The musk deer is also spotted in Bhutan and Nepal. Small numbers of the animal are also found in China (southwest Xizang. The deer generally dwell alone with around 3 to 4 animals per kilometer square in the fell fields, meadows, first forests or shrublands.


  • The dense forests that allow you to connect to nature.
  • The rare and endangered species of animals found here.
  • The Himalayan peaks surrounding the region are a treat to the eyes.

Visitor Information

The visitors that visit the Kedarnath Sanctuary are mostly Indians. They are generally pilgrims visiting various temples of the area. The Kedarnath Temple can only be reached via the route passing through this sanctuary. This sanctuary can be visited during the time from April to June and then again from September to November. In the year 2007, around 5,57,923 visitors to the Kedarnath temple passed through this sanctuary while in 1987, 87,629 pilgrims visited this sanctuary. This is a huge increase in a 20 year gap. Jolly Grant airport at Dehradun, the capital city of Uttarakhand is the nearest airport. The entry point for this sanctuary is Chopta.

The National Highway NH 58 which begins at Delhi and passes through Chamoli via Meerut, Rishikesh, Rudraprayag, Okhimath and then the state highway leads to Chopta. Housings and resting areas are offered to visitors in and around the sanctuary. Prior reservation needs to be made through the DFO, Kedarnath Wildlife Division, Gopeshwar to stay at the forest hut at Madhyamaheshwar. Dharamshalas are maintained by various temple committees in the region. These can be used by visitors and pilgrims at Kedarnath, Mandal, Gaurikund, Dougalbitta and Trijuginarayan. Also, a guest house is located at Sonprayag.

Here are a few visitor tips:

  • Please do not irritate the animals in any way.
  • Most animals are nocturnal and are hence asleep during day time so be careful not to disturb them.
  • Do not smoke inside the sanctuary.
  • Do not use flashes or intrusive photography.
  • Do not pick flowers or insects.
  • It is not a picnic spot. Picnicking and camping in not allowed in the sanctuary.
  • Carry plenty of water with you.
  • Try to blend with the surroundings and wear lose fitting and comfortable clothes.
  • While on a trip inside the sanctuary, take official guides along with you.

How to Reach


The Jolly Grant airport in Dehradun is the nearest airport.


Rishikesh is the nearest rail head at a distance of 227km.


NH 58 from Delhi followed by the state highway to Chopta is the road route that can be followed to reach Kedarnath Sanctuary.

Related Image

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