Fri, Jul 17, 2009 - Page 4 News List

Mukumugi Gorge gains in popularity

UNTOUCHED BEAUTY In order to protect the local environment, residents closed the gorge for three years in 2002 and now only allow 600 visitors per day

By Loa Iok-sin  /  STAFF REPORTER

While Taroko Gorge (太魯閣峽谷) is already a well-known tourist destination, another nearby attraction, Mukumugi Gorge (慕谷慕魚), has gained in popularity recently after it was closed to visitors for three years.

“Often we have to ask visitors to return home because we only allow up to 600 visitors into Mukumugi per day — 300 in the morning and 300 in the afternoon,” a police officer at Tongmen (銅門) police station surnamed Tsai (蔡) said. “We can’t make any exceptions.”

Although not as well known as nearby Taroko Gorge, Mukumugi welcomed 110,000 visitors in 2007 and more than 140,000 last year. Since the beginning of the month, more than 9,000 have visited.

Tongmen police station, located at the entrance of Mukumugi Gorge in Tongmen, Sioulin Township (秀林), Hualien County, is responsible for controlling the number of visitors into the area in order to conserve the local ecosystem.

Controlling the number of visitors per day is not the only way local residents protect the area. In 2002, local residents closed off the entire area to visitors for three years.

“Before [2002], the beautiful scenery and rich fisheries attracted many visitors, especially anglers,” local resident Hsu Mei-hsien (?? said. “However, many used a technique called ‘electrofishing’ that caused serious harm to the local ecosystem.”

Determined to protect the environment, Mukumugi residents — most of them Truku Aborigines — decided to declare their traditional domain off-limits to outsiders in 2002.

Three years later, when Mukumugi was reopened, it soon attracted visitors with its seemingly untouched beauty.

“It’s absolutely beautiful — the water is so clear you can see the fish in it from the roadside without having to go down into the valley,” visitor James Wu (吳明仁) said. “It’s great to bathe in a cold stream in the summer and feel the little fish ‘pecking’ at you.”

Despite the gorge’s growing popularity, for local residents, sustainability is still the priority.

“Now we only allow fishing in designated areas and only in July and August,” Hsu said. “You cannot take any fish out of Mukumugi, you have to put them back.”

Cars are searched at the police checkpoint before they leave Mukumugi to enforce the policy, she said.

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