Yueyaquan: A Natural Wonder Emerging In The Middle Of A Desert

Emerging in a vast desert, Crescent Lake, a peaceful desert oasis that has become a new attraction, coexists with the enormous and charming golden sandhill.
November 12, 2021 | 09:06

Yueyaquan is a crescent-shaped lake in an oasis, 6 km south of the city of Dunhuang in Gansu Province, China.

The Crescent Lake is also known as the Crescent Spring, Crescent Moon Spring, or Yueya Spring. It can be considered a natural wonder of the Gobi Desert. Just as its name implies, the lake appears like a crescent moon and with its crystal clear water, resembles a turquoise or pearl inlaid in the vast desert. Some say it reminds them of the eye of a beautiful woman, lucid, beautiful, and amorous. Others say it looks like the mysterious, gentle and seductive lips of a pretty woman, or a slice of a lush, sweet and crystal cantaloupe.

How was it discovered?

Photo: Unusual Place
Photo: Unusual Place

The lake was named Yueyaquan in the Qing Dynasty. Mildred Cable and Francesca French visited the lake during their travels in the region in 1932 and recorded their impressions in their book The Gobi Desert: "All around us we saw tier on tier of lofty sand-hills, giving the lie to our quest, yet when, with a final desperate effort, we hoisted ourselves over the last ridge and looked down on what lay beyond, we saw the lake below, and its beauty was entrancing."

And at 15 to 25 feet deep, the lake is suspiciously deep considering its isolated location in the middle of a sun-scorched desert. This was only exacerbated by the fact that, once the local government noticed the lake was losing its total surface area, steps were taken to ensure the water supply didn’t dry up. But the move wasn’t about ecology so much as tourism, since Crescent Lake is a popular tourist destination in all seasons. Visitors to the nearby sand dunes can even ride camels, including one trip that takes tourists out to see the sunrise from the desert, according to Atlas Obscura.

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

Research shows that the mysterious crescent landform was the result of a natural wind-created depression. As the cross-ventilation theory states, sands falling from the surrounding mountains would be blown to the other side of the nearby Echoing-Sand Mountain. Thus, the sands do not smother the spring. This natural phenomenon keeps the sand dunes and spring in harmonious and almost paradoxical existence.

Crescent Lake facing the threat of disappearing

The crescent shape has been considered as one of the “Eight Great Sights in Dunhuang” since the Han Dynasty(202BC-220AD). Having in existence among these sand dunes for thousands of years, the Crescent Spring survived many sandstorms and still retains its position as the No. 1 spring in the desert. However, there was a time when the water level was lower than 0.7m (2.3 feet). Hence, the Crescent Lake Oasis might face a possibility of disappearance due to severe soil and water loss, according to Travel China Guide.

Visit The Cresent Lake

Problem: The Chinese Government plans to introduce a range of measures to tackle increasing desertification which threatens various regions. Photo: Getty Images
Problem: The Chinese Government plans to introduce a range of measures to tackle increasing desertification which threatens various regions. Photo: Getty Images

One should visit both Crescent Lake and Echoing-Sand Mountain together. Entry to the area can be by using either the shuttle buses, located left of the entrance or by walking along the main path to the lake when time permits. Another option is to ride on a camel and have fun sliding down the slope of the sand dune before walking to the lake. Admire the thick reeds swaying gracefully in the breeze at the southern bank of the lake; as well as a group of elegant pavilions and temples dominating the skyline.

Visitors are able to witness the variable scenes of the lake from early sunrise to sunset; such as the soft glow of sunrise and the smooth mirror image at dusk. It is during the latter time that the lake reflects the rosy clouds and golden dunes of the surrounding. In the evening, blue neon light encircles the lake resembling the moon on the ground. The scenic area stays open till late in the evening, allowing visitors to enjoy themselves under the starry night. It is also a photographer’s paradise as the ticket is valid for three days. Hence, photographers have the opportunity to shoot at a different time of the day, cited by Travel China Guide.

Photo: MyBestPlace
Photo: MyBestPlace

Overall, one not only wonders the strange co-existence of an oasis and a dessert, but also the opportunity to have great sand adventures, such as camel rides, ‘dune surfing’, and shooting arrows. Other exciting facilities such as gliding, motorcycling, karting, SUVs, and helicopter rides are also available. One would definitely marvel at the dramatic view at the top of the dunes.

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