Horton Plains National Park

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The Horton Plains National Park is a protected area in the central highlands of Sri Lanka. The plains are of outstanding scenic beauty and conservation importance, containing most of the habitats and endemic plants and animals representative of the country’s wet and montane zones. This plateau at an altitude of 2,100–2,300 metres (6,900–7,500 ft) is rich in biodiversity and many species found here are endemic to the region. This region was designated a national park in 1988. Horton Plains National Park is also a popular tourist destination and is situated 32 kilometres (20 mi) from Nuwara Eliya.

The Horton Plains are the head waters of three Sri Lankan major rivers the Mahaweli, Kelani, and Walawe.

The mean temperature is about 13c but varies considerably during the cause of a day by dipping as low as 5c in the night and rising up to 27c during the day time. The annual rainfall is greater than 2000 millimeters.

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History of Horton Plains

The original name of the area was Maha Eliya Thenna (මහ එළිය තැන්න - "great open plain"). But in the British period the plains were renamed after Sir Robert Wilmot-Horton, the British governor of Ceylon from 1831 to 1837, who travelled to the area to meet the Ratemahatmaya of Sabaragamuwa in 1836, in 1834 by Lt William Fisher of the 78th Regiment and Lt. Albert Watson of the 58th Regiment, who 'discovered' the plateau. Stone tools dating back to Balangoda culture have been found here. The local population who resided in the lowlands ascended the mountains to mine gems, extract iron ore, construct an irrigational canal and fell trees for timber. A 6-metre (20 ft) pollen core extracted from a mire revealed that in the late quaternary period the area had a semi-arid climate and a species-restricted plant community.

Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker had advised the British Government "to leave all Montane Forests above 5000 ft. undisturbed" and an administrative order to this effect had been issued in 1873 that prevented clearing and felling of forests in the region. Horton Plains was designated as a wildlife sanctuary on 5 December 1969, and because of its biodiversity value, was elevated to a national park on 18 March 1988. The Peak Wilderness Sanctuary which lies in west is contiguous with the park. The land area covered by Horton Plains is 3,160 hectares (12.2 sq mi). Horton Plains contains the most extensive area of cloud forest still existing in Sri Lanka. On July 2010, the Central Highlands of Sri Lanka which incorporates Horton Plains National Park, Peak Wilderness Sanctuary and Knuckles Mountain Range was inscribed on the World Heritage List.

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750 species of plants belonging to 20 families, 54 woody plant species of which 27 species are endemic to Sri Lanka, 16 endemic orchid species, 24 species of mammals, 87 species of birds, and  9 species of reptiles are recorded from horton plains national park. Horton Plains forms one of the Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in Sri Lanka along with Ohiya, Pattipola and Ambewela.

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The sheer precipice of World's End and Baker's Falls are among the tourist attractions of the horton plains national park.

Check out the other National Parks of Sri Lanka