The high grassland endorheic Pangong lake in the Himalayas situated at a height of about 14,270 feet at ladakh. Pangong is 134 km long and extends from Indian Kashmir to China. Approx 60% of the length of pangong lies in China. The lake is 5 km wide at its broadest point. All together it covers 604 Sq-km. During winter the lake freezes completely, despite being saline water. It is not a part of Indus river basin area and geographically a separate land locked river basin.
The lake is in the process of being identified under the Ramsar Convention as a wetland of international importance. This will be the first trans-boundary wetland in South Asia under the convention. The eastern end of the pangong is in buddhist Tibet. After the mid 19th century, Pangong tso was at the southern end of Johnson Line, an early attempt at demarcation between India and China in the Aksai Chin region. The Khurnak Fort lies on the northern bank of the lake, halfway of Pangong Tso. The Chinese has controlled the Khurnak Fort area since 1952. To the south is the smaller Spanggur Tso lake.
Reach pangong lake in a five-hour journey from Leh. Most of it on a rough and dramatic mountain road. The road crosses the villages of Shey and Gya and traverses the Changla where army sentries and a small teahouse greet visitors. The road down from Chang La leads through Tangtse and other smaller villages crossing river called Pagal Naala or The Crazy Stream. The spectacular pangong lakeside is open during the tourist season from May to September. An Inner Line Permit is required to visit the lake as it lies on the Sino-Indian Line of Actual Control. While Indian nationals can obtain individual permits others must have group permits with a minimum of three persons accompanied by an accredited guide, the tourist office in Leh issues the permits for a small fee. For security reasons, India does not permit boating.
Brackish water of the pangong lake has very low micro-vegetation. Guides report that there are no fish or other aquatic life in the lake, except for some small crustaceans. On the other hand, visitors see numerous ducks and gulls over and on the lake surface. There are some species of scrub and perennial herbs that grow in the marshes around the lake. The lake acts as an important breeding ground for a variety of birds including a number of migratory birds. During summer, the Bar-headed goose and Brahmini ducks are commonly seen here. The region around the lake supports a number of species of wildlife including the kiang and the Marmot.
Formerly Pangong Tso had an outlet to Shyok River, a tributary of Indus River but it was closed off due to natural damming. Two streams feed the lake from the Indian side forming marshes and wetlands at the edges. Strand lines above current lake level reveal a 16 feet thick layer of mud and laminated sand, suggesting the lake has shrunk recently in geological scale. No fish have been observed in the lake, however in the stream coming from South-eastern side. The low biodiversity in the lake has been reported as being due to high salinity and harsh environmental conditions.