The Kumtag ("kum tagh" in Uighur, meaning "sand mountain") Shamo, or Sand Mountain Desert, is located in Xinjiang province in northwestern China. Like all deserts, the temperature in the Kumtag Shamo varies from freezing at night to baking during the day. Here the hues of the barren sand desert with its thick yellow sand and those of the gobi type desert with its lunar-like, gravelly surface (the thin layer of soil, as well as the thin layer of sand below this, have been blown completely away, leaving only slate-colored gravel on the surface), contrast with the lusher green area 500 km to the south, where the mighty Yangtze River flows. Birds can be seen flittering about in the skies of Kumtag Shamo as the sound of tinkling bells focuses one's attention on approaching camels. There is beauty and charm in the Kumtag Shamo.
The Kumtag Shamo, originally designated as a national park in 2002 and covering a "mere" 1880 square kilometers, was expanded in 2007 to include much of the surrounding landscape, including the Kanas Geological Park comprising roughly 1000 square kilometers, such that Kumtag National Park, when completed, will become the world's largest national park, outstripping the former such park, Yellowstone National Park in the U.S., which covers an area of about 9000 square kilometers. The Kumtag National Park will thus integrate the barren but enchanting beauty of Kumtag Shamo's gentle sand dunes in the north with the lush green verdure of the fertile lands of the Yangtze River valley to the south.
When you stand at the old city gates of Shanshan on the northern outreaches of the new national park and look southwards, you will see the magnificent expanse of the yellow sands of the Kumtag Shamo, which has been neighbor to the oasis for thousands of years, spread out before you.
The sands that form Kumtag Shamo were deposited over the centuries, where the winds that blow down Tianshan Mountain were checked by the winds that blow from Daban City. Large amounts of sand have thus been moved over long distances to form the dunes in the Kumtag region. Now, Kumtag Shamo has been mapped out and developed into a scenic site that integrates the sightseeing perspective with scientific research, where sand therapy treatment and camel jaunts over vast expanses of sand dunes with their fascinating, serpentine curvature, casting dark shadows that hide as much as the scorching sun reveals, go hand in hand with scientific exploration.
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