The word Deosai consists of Deo, or Djin, which is the local terminology for spirits and Sai is used for the sitting place, which together mean the “place of spirits”. Deosai served as an important trade route between Kashmir and Gilgit, and in the pre-partition era, it served as an area where most of the tribal conflicts were resolved. Wars were fought in Deosai plains by warriors such as the Dogras, local tribes and the Turks (Khan, 1962). Its geographic location makes it an important territory from strategic point of view, as it is close to the Line of Control (LoC) with India, in the Indian held Kashmir.
The Government of the Gilgit-Baltistan, declared Deosai as National Park on May 14, 1993, spreading over an area of approximately 3626 Sq. Km. According to IUCN protected area categories, Deosai is a category I National Park, for the protection and conservation of endemic species of Himalayan Brown bear.
The Deosai National Park is situated at the junction of three important Mountain ranges, western Himalayas, the Ladkh and Zanskar. Deosai plains is divided as Bara and small Deosai. Bara Deosai is approximately 30Km in the south of Skardu and accessible from North through a jeep able road from Skardu, which enters the plains via Ali Malik Pass. This jeep road crosses the plains and goes down into Astore valley in the West through Sheosar pass near sheosar lake. Bara Deosai is the main stronghold of the Brown Bear.
Deosai National Park is an alpine plateau of exceptional beauty and ecological value located in the western massif of the Himalayas, east of Nanga Parbat Peak and in close proximity to the Central Karakoram Range. The plateau, with an altitude of 3500 to 5200 m., is an area of 358,400 ha. of flat but undulating plains broken by gently rolling hills and surrounded on all sides by mountains. It forms a stark contrast to much of the surrounding landscape which is made up of narrow valleys between steep mountains.
The plateau’s environment is characterized by extreme cold with low atmospheric pressure coupled with low oxygen and carbon dioxide levels, aridity, intense and rapid solar ultraviolet radiation. The Deosai plain receives higher rainfall than adjoining northern and north eastern valleys of Baltistan due to its geographical location facing the monsoon affected outer Himalayas. Annual precipitation varies from 350 to 550 mm., mostly received during winter as snow.
Deosai National Park is located where two biogeographical provinces merge, in the Himalayan and Karakorum-Pamir highlands. As a result, it is a place of very rich biodiversity as species are channeled through the Karakorum range, the main crest of the Himalayas, Zanskar range (Trans-Himalaya), Ladakh range (Trans-Himalaya) and the Indus valley.
These factors combine to create high altitude wetlands characterized by Sheosar Lake, at 4,250m which represents a unique category of alpine wetlands that is confined to the Himalaya, Hindukush and Karakoram mountain cordilleras. The wetlands are fed by snow melt from the surrounding high snow-clad peaks and are drained by many fast-flowing rivers and streams. Large expanses of alpine meadow alternate with drier stony areas, and there are patches of dwarf willows along the rivers and streams with many species of Poa, Saxifraga and Euphorbia. The plateau is highly significant in terms of watershed value. Three important river systems originate from Deosai National Park namely; Shatung, Bara Pani and Kala Pani which form the Shigar River, an important tributary of Indus River.
The park is part of the Conservation International Himalayan Biodiversity Hotspot and contains a rich variety of species including a population of Tibetan wolf (Canis lupus chanco), Himalayan ibex (Capra ibex sibrica), Tibetan red fox (Vulpus vulpus montana) and Golden marmots (Marmota caudata). The waters of the Deosai plateau are home to the local snow trout which reach enormous size. The park lies within the Birdlife International’s Western Himalaya Endemic Bird Area and is important as a resting place and breeding ground of residential and migratory birds of international importance. The flora of Deosai is influenced by four major floristic elements: Boreoalpine and Circumpolar; the Euro- Siberian; Southern European/ Mediterranean and Siberian- Mongolian and is home to hundreds of species of medicinal and aromatic plants. In the Spring season it is covered by sweeps of wildflowers and a wide variety of rare butterflies.
Deosai national park is also on the tentative list of UNESCO world heritage sites