Upo Wetland in Changnyeong, South Gyeongsang Province, ranks as the largest natural marsh in Korea. The wetland, which spans some 2.3 sq.km, has a high ecological value and bears traces of ancient times, with fossils dating back a staggering 140 million years discovered there. At this time of the year, visitors can enjoy the sight of migratory birds, oceans of reeds and stunning scenery.
It was listed on the Ramsar Convention in 1988 and designated a protected area by the Ministry of Environment in 1999. In January 2011, it was designated a natural treasure deserving preservation status. The area serves as a resting place or home to various animals and plants.
Visitors can choose to see the sights by walking or cycling along various trails, but the latter is recommended in winter as the sun sets earlier. Riding too quickly can startle the birds, so be careful and go slowly even on a downhill road.
It is important to pick up a map of the area from one of the information offices before setting off in order to have a clear picture of all the tour routes. Regular and tandem bikes can be rented for W3,000 (US$1=W1,061) and W4,000, respectively, for two hours of use.
The road branches in two just beyond the entrance to the wetland, giving visitors a choice of two tour courses. Heading to the left, the first route leads to Jokji field, passing by an observatory and a bird-watching spot. The advantage of this route is that visitors can take a close look at the wetland and see migratory birds floating on the water. A colony of willows has also taken root in the marsh. Nourished by this, their branches stretch up to the sky.
The second course leads to Sajipo field and passes along Daedae Bank, offering even more impressive scenery with various migratory birds filling the wetland. Visitors can see crested ibises, spoonbills, whooper swans and lapwings, as well as Bean geese and Baikal teals preparing to spend their winter at the wetland. Those who are more fortunate can see the dynamic movements of the migratory birds as they form patterns in the sky.
It only takes 2-3 hours to complete courses -- the first runs for 1.3 km, the second for 1.4 km. But when the water level rises, bikes can be restricted from accessing some areas, so visitors must remain alert for such signs.
There is also a forest trail at a slight remove from the wetland. As the trail is lined with pine trees, bikers can enjoy some freshly oxygenated air while they exercise.
The ecosystem pavilion at Upo Wetland offers more information about how the natural world here functions and interacts. It provides insights into the lives of various wild animals that inhibit the area as well as the environment itself.
For more information, visit the website at http://www.upo.or.kr/main.