Located in the arms of Echoing-Sand Dune about 6 km south of the Dunhuang city, Crescent Lake (also called Yueyaquan in Chinese) is a spring in the shape of a half moon. It has existed for at least two thousands years alongside Echoing-Sand Dune, never drying up. Crescent Lake is beautiful and clear. It is 218 meters long from east to west and 54 meters wide from north to south. The average depth of the lake is 1.09 meters. The resulting view of lake and grass embedded in the endless desert is a magnificent one.
The Crescent Lake’s water is so pure and clear that it looks like an emerald jewel in the sand, a true oasis. Along the side of the Crescent Lake is a pagoda in traditional Han Chinese architecture. A street lined with souvenir stalls leads up from the entrance to the complex. Many tourists ride camels here, organized by the complex operators, to get to the summit of the sand dunes.
For thousands of years, Crescent Lake has remained clear and flowing. It is a real desert wonder. There are many beautiful legends about the formation of the lake but, in fact, the most important reason is the landscape. The land here is a little lower so the altitude is fit for storing water. In addition, research has revealed that in this special crescent land form, the falling sands from the surrounding dune would be sent back to the other side of the nearby Echoing-Sand Dune. Thus, the sands do not engulf the lake. This extraordinary earth movement keeps the sand dunes and lake eternally in a harmonious and almost paradoxical existence.
The last few decades the lake has been gradually disappearing. According to measurement made in 1960, the average depth of the lake was 4 to 5 meters, with maximum depth 7.5 meters. In the early 1990s, the area of the lake had shrunken to only 1.37-acre (5,500 m2) with average depth of 0.9 meter (maximum 1.3 meter). Crescent Lake has dropped more than 25 feet in the last three decades while the underground water table elsewhere in the area has fallen by as much as 35 feet.
In 2006, the local government with help of the central government started to fill the lake and restore its depth; its depth and size have been growing yearly since then.