Wangpi Stream Eco Park
Uljin Wangpi Stream Eco Park (Wangpicheon Eco Park; 울진왕피천생태공원; map) lies next on Wangpi Stream (Wangpicheon; 왕피천; map) near the East Sea in Uljin County.
Once named “Uljin Expo Park,” the park held the Eco-Agriculture/Organic Food Expo in 2005 and 2009. Today the park is a massive complex, with a protected forest, cable car, aquarium, and more.
Wangpi Stream (Wangpicheon; 왕피천; map) pours from Geumjang Mountain (Geumjangsan; 금장산; map) and travels 61 kilometers (38 mi) through a remote section of North Gyeongsang Province before spilling into the East Sea near downtown Uljin.
The Ministry of Environment (환경부 홈페이지) designated Wangpi Stream as an ecological conservation area. It protects its pristine wilderness.
The Wangpi Stream sustains life for endangered flora, including mountain goats, otters, and musk deer. Rare species of flora include peonies, yellow irises, and geumgangsong or red pine trees, which Korea used to build palaces.
Sweetfish and salmon fill the stream’s waters. They migrate upstream in the spring to feed, then return the stream’s East Sea estuary in the fall to spawn.
Bulyeong Valley (불영계곡; map) is a picturesque valley created by Wangpi Stream. It holds sculpted rocks pressurized in the earth’s core and Bulyeongsa Temple (불영사; map).
Wangpi Stream’s name translates to “the place where the king fled.” Because of its isolated location, royalty escaped to the stream in times of crisis.
- King Anil, the last king of the Siljikguk (실직국), a tribe that ruled Samcheok during the Samhan period (300 BCE ~ 0 CE), fled to Wangpi Stream when the tribe from Gangneung invaded. He cried as he crossed Tongo Mountain (통고산; map).
- King Gongmin (고려 공민; b. 1330) of the Goryeo Dynasty retreated to the stream during the Red Turban Rebellions.
The Eco Park
Wangpi Stream Eco Park features walking paths that wind through forests and gardens on 66,000 square-meters of land near Wangpi Stream.
Designers engineered the park to represent Korea. It contains fresh and saltwater environments lined with lilies and cattails. And dozens of species of native wildflowers number 230,000 in an expansive garden.
The eco park’s main natural highlight is its geumgangsong (금강송) or red pine trees. Numbering over a thousand, some trees date back 200 years. The largest measures 2.2 meters round, and 20 meters tall.
Since ancient times, Koreans held geumgangsong tree as Korea’s best pine tree. Joseon Dynasty builders cultivated and used them to build palaces and temples. Today restorers use Uljin geumgangsong trees to refurbish landmarks like Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul.
To mitigate damage from flooding, locals have managed the forest of geumgangsong pines on Wangpi Stream since 1890. Then in 1982, the government designated the area as a “genetic resource reserve,” preserving its species of geumgangsong pine trees for future generations.
Every year on Seollal (Lunar New Year), Uljin residents plant a new geumgangsong. Visitors can spot these young, meter-tall saplings mingling with mighty, centuries-old conifers.
Wangpi Stream Eco Park doesn’t sport natural highlights. It hosts many buildings and exhibits.
Wangpi Stream Cable Car
Wangpi Stream Cable Car (왕피천케이블카; map) is 715 meters long, 1.43 kilometers round trip. It begins in the eco park, floats over Wangpi Stream, and lands at “Sunrise Stop” below Mangyang Pavilion.
The cable car’s 10-seater gondolas reach a height of 55 meters, offering views of Wangpi Stream, the East Sea, and the park below. Special “crystal cabin” gondolas (크리스털 케빈) offer see-through floors for ₩1,000 to ₩2,000 extra.
- July & August: 10 AM ~ 7 PM
- November to March: 10 AM ~ 5:30 PM
- April, May, June, September, October: 10 AM ~ 6 PM
- Closed on national holidays and the 1st and 3rd Mondays of every month.
The two-story Uljin Aquarium (울진아쿠아리움; map) sits inside Wangpi Stream Eco Park near the cable car. Its exterior features red braces that resemble a snow crab.
One of the aquarium’s exhibits many tanks recreates Wangdolcho (왕돌초), the giant reef 23 kilometers off Uljin County’s coast. The tank holds hundreds of creatures that inhabit the reef including sharks, fish, turtles, and stingrays.
- April to October: 9 AM ~ 6 PM
- November to March: 9 AM ~ 5 PM
- Closed on Mondays
Here’s a list of the other facilities found in Uljin Wangpi Stream Eco Park.
- Insect Museum (울진곤충여행) — 12,000 domestic and foreign living and fossilized insects, including dung beetles and cicadas.
- Horticultural Therapy Center (원예치료관) — 65 rare plant species numbering 20,000, including palms, cacti, and orchids.
- Safety Museum (안전체험관) — earthquake, fire evacuation, and car rollover experiences.
- Animal Farm (동물농장) — a small zoo with guanacos, parrots, peacocks, monkeys, meerkats, and more.