Pong Dam Wetlands is considered to be one of the finest and largest manmade wetlands of North India.
Pong Dam Wetlands was declared a Wildlife Sanctuary in 1983. In 1960, a dam was constructed across Beas River, resulting in the formation of Pong Lake.
Migratory birds entering the plains of India from Central Asia and China head straight to the picturesque Pong Wetlands, which has been declared as a Ramsar site in 2002. Annually, thousands of migratory birds make Pong Dam Lake their winter dwelling place.
The reservoir is bounded by the majestic Dhauladhar mountain range, the low foothills of the Himalaya on the northern edge of the Indo-Gangetic plains and the mountain streams cutting through valleys.
In a census conducted by the state Forest department from January 30 to February 1 2009, around 95,000 birds of 89 species were wintering in areas along the Pong Dam. Some of the birds that were recorded are bar-headed geese, coots, common pochard, red-crested pochard, great cormorant, northern pintail, river tern and the spotbill duck. After Bharatpur Sanctuary, Pong Dam reservoir is the only place in India where the red-necked grebe descends every year.
The birds can be spotted at Nagrota Suriyan, Sathana, Sansarpur Terrace, and Rancer island site areas. In winter, the sprawling Pong Dam wetland is a bird watchers paradise and a visual delight.
Flora: The tree species found in the meagre forest area are Acacia, Jamun, Shisham, Mango, Mulberry, Ficus, Kachanar, Amla and Prunus. A variety of shrubs, grasses and climbers and some species of submerged vegetation are also found. Eucalyptus trees have also been planted in the area.
Fauna: Nilgai, Barking deer, sambar, wild boars, leopards and Oriental Small-clawed Otters have been spotted.
Aqua Fauna: Rohu, Aorichthys seenghala, Labeo calbasu, Tor putitora, Cirrhinus mrigala, Wallago attu, Cyprinus carpio, Labeo dero, Catla catla and Channa sp.
Avian-Fauna: Varheaded geese, Anser indicus, northern lapwing, ruddy shelduck, Northern pintail, common teal, Mariana Mallard, Eurasian Coot Fulica atra, red-necked grebe black-headed gulls, plovers, Black Stork, terns, water-fowl and egrets, and more.
Riotously coloured Birds: The place is a visual treat and a paradise for avid bird watchers. To discover and observe thousands of birds descending, roosting, and relaxing is a memorable experience.
Pong Dam Wetlands also known as Maharana Pratap Sagar is located in the wetland zone of Shivalik hills in Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh.
Area: 240 sq. km
Route: The reservoir is well-connected by road to most of the major cities in Himachal Pradesh and Punjab. The nearest railway station is at Mukerian (30 km) and Pathankot (32 km).
Nagrota Surian and Jawali, located close to the reservoir, are connected by the narrow gauge Kangra railway line, which connects Pathankot to Jogindernagar. The nearest airport to the reservoir is at Gaggal (40 km).
Best Time to Visit: 01-October to 31-March
Things to keep in mind
- Avoid talking loudly
- Do not litter the area with papers, polythenes
Jwalamukhi: This place is known for the Hindu temple that houses Jwalamukhi, the flaming goddess. There is no idol here but a flame that is burning in the rock sanctum. This place is located 30 km from Kangra.
Masroor Rock Temple: The somewhat ruined 15 monolithic temples are located in Masroor, which is 40 km from Kangra. These rock-cut temples are carved in Indo-Aryan style. There are three stone images of Ram, Lashman and Sita in the main temple.
Kangra Fort: Located on the bank of the river Banganga, the fort is situated at a height of 350 feet. The foreyard of the fort houses the temples of Laxmi Narayan and Adinath. There are two ponds inside the fort. Archaeological Survey of India looks after the fort.