Head to Dongjiao Wetland Park for Sand, Lakes and Cycling
For a quick, picturesque nature escape without leaving the confines of Beijing, set your GPS to the stunning but lesser-known Dongjiao Wetland Park.
Located northeast of the Eastern Suburbs Forest Park – the most massive of Beijing’s forest parks (think Olympic Forest Park but eight times bigger) – the thriving ecosystem is part of an urban master plan to create a green corridor close to Beijing’s urban center and to increase the number of wetlands in the capital. In the last five years alone, for example, 12,000 hectares of wetlands have been constructed in Beijing, and last Jun 1, China’s National Wetland Protection Law was enacted to protect spaces just like this.
And because of its proximity to water sources, including the Wenyu River – North Canal and previously abandoned fishponds, this area has become a key element in the capital’s bird habitat conservation plan, and after several transformations is now a must visit for birdwatching enthusiasts young and old alike.
There are two gates to enter the park. If you enter through the west gate – past the car park and onto the cycling path – you’ll be greeted by a stunning, panoramic view of the Jade Water Caltrop Lake. On a clear blue-sky day, the sight of the reflection of the surrounding trees against the water is a refreshing break from the concrete jungle we live in day to day. And for an even better view, climb up to the observation deck and lord over the sights below and beyond.
For those seeking out the sandy areas, head past the viewing platform and follow the road, cross the bridge over the Xiaozhong River, and go back to the flower-lined path, until you see the first of several sunbaked sand dunes. But if the lack of cover makes it too hot to handle, then continue down the path to find sand areas shaded by towering trees separated from the lake by a wooden bridge.
While the official picnic spots are still closed, this has become one of many unofficial picnic spots around the park. On recent trip to the park, on one side, children were dipping their toes into the cool lake and observing the little tadpoles and fish they’d scooped up in bucketfuls of water — later returned to their rightful homes — and on the other side they were rolling around in the sand and building sandcastles. For people considering ordering waimai, that may pose a challenge as it’s a good 15-20 minute walk to the west gate.
It’s nonetheless a great way to spend the afternoon (and forget that, hey, it’s still Chaoyang).
For a more comprehensive guide to the park, follow the park’s official WeChat account (djslgy) where you can also access its bilingual text and audio guide to the different landmarks in the park and its introduction to some of the wide variety of flora grown in the park.
Dongjiao Wetland Park 东郊湿地公园
To get there by Didi, type in (English) Dongjiao Forest Wetland Park – West Gate
Entrance is free, but currently capacity is capped at 75 percent and visitors will need a negative Covid test result within the last 72 hours. Register through Meituan or Dianping.
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Images: Avery Townsend