Musk Deer Sanctuary

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the high reaches of the Garhwal Himalays lies the home of the Musk dear, the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. The sanctuary covers an area of about 967 Sq km and was established in the year 1972. The sanctuary was set up to protect the forests of the Panch Kedar belt, which straddles north Rudraprayag District and part of Cham¬oli. The Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary is host to temp¬erate forests in the middle altitudes; higher up is dotted by coniferous, sub-alpine and alpine forests, and further up alpine grasslands and high-altitude bugyals.

The Musk Deer Sanctuary is situated in one of the most holy regions of Garhwal – Kedarnath, which is a well known pilgrimage site for the Hindus and is also one of the Chardhams of Uttarakhand. The other three are Yamunotri, Gangotri and Badrinath.
The Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary is surrounded by the beautiful snow covered peaks of the great Himalayan mountain range, glaciers, rivers, valleys and forests. Its location adds to the experience as you can enjoy breath-taking views of the high-rise mountains laden with snow, even if you miss the chance to view the wildlife here. The sanctuary is also reputed as one of the world’s richest bio-reserves.

Lakes, waterfall and high-rise mountain peaks abound in this forest belt, as do a number of old Hindu pilgrimage sites — Madhyamaheshwar, Tungnath, Rudra¬nath, Kedarnath, Triyuginarayan and Kalpeshwar all are located within or on the periphery of the sanctuary. Some 225 species of birds, including the rare monal, chir pheasant and Hima¬layan snow-cock are found in the sanctuary. The sanctuary also protects the state animal of Uttarakhand, the endan¬gered musk deer, and the Himalayan brown and black bears, tahr, the snow leopard, ghoral, serow, barking deer and blue sheep.

A permit is required to visit and stay in the forest rest houses in the Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary, which can be obtained from the DFO in Gopeshwar. You can enter the park through Gaurikund on the Rudra¬prayag-Kedarnath NH109 that runs along the sanctuary’s western border, and Helang on the Rudraprayag-Badrinath NH58 that runs along the sanctuary’s eastern border.

However, the most convenient way to reach is to take the state forest road that runs along the southern boundary of the sanctuary, connecting Kund on NH109 to Chamoli on NH58 via Okhimath, Chopta, Mandal and Gopes¬hwar. If fact Chopta is the commonly used approach into the sanc¬tuary. If it is difficult to find accommodation in the sanctuary, Gopeshwar is a good place to set base for a visit to Kedarnath Sanctuary.
Musk Dear

Even more elusive than a tiger, Musk deer generally restricts itself to dense undergrowths and hang out in pairs. This animal is neither a deer nor antelope but somewhere in between. In a way they are deer-like without the antlers. Known as kasturi Mrig in Hindi, the musk deer stands not higher than 50 cm at the shoulders and weighs 13-15 kg.
It is good to visit the Musk Deer Breeding Farm at Mandal, a Forest Depart¬ment initiative to breed this endangered deer. You may require prior permission to visit the farm, which can be obtained from the DFO’s office in Gopesh¬war. But be aware, it won't be a cakewalk, you need to be persuasive to get the permission.

Places to see around
On your way to the sanctuary, you may pass a number of small towns, prominent of them are Rudraprayag, Gaurikund, Chopta, Gopeshwar and Okhimath. Kedarnath is a famous religious site that you may include in your itinerary. Kedarnath is 14 km from Gaurikund.

Places to stay in Kedarnath Sanctuary
Govt. guest houses offer decent accommodation in Kedarnath Musk Deer Sanctuary. You may need prior permission from DFO office in Gopeshwar to stay there. You can also set base at Gopeshwar, which has some decent hotels.

Reaching the Kedarnath Sanctuary
By Air: Jolly Grant near Dehradun is the nearest airport, which is 227 km away.
By Rail: Nearest railway station is at Rishikesh, which is 212 km away.

By Road:
Chopta is one of the entry points to the sanctuary.

From Rishikesh at a distance of 212 km
From Rudraprayag at a distance of 75 km

Route from Delhi: NH58 to Chamoli via Meerut, Muzaffarnagar, Roorkee, Haridwar, Rishikesh, Devprayag, Srinagar, Rudraprayag, Okhimath; state road to Chopta.

Best time to visit
Anytime of the year except the winter months between November and March. However, the best time to go is from May – October.