Address: Bokhnyaka St.10, office 15, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky,
Kamchatka Krai, Russia, 683031
Phone / Fax: (41522) 5-10-21, mobile.: 8-909-835-3530
Kamchatka's rivers and lakes
Huge amount of precipitations, presence of permafrost, long melting snows in mountains, poor evaporation, and mountainous relief were key points in development of extremely dense hydro network of the Kamchatka Krai.
There are 140,100 rivers and creeks in Kamchatka and only 105 are longer than 100 km (60 miles). Despite their small depth, the rivers are rather full-flowing.
The Kamchatka river (length 758 km or 471 miles) and the Penzhina (713 km or 443 miles) are distinguished by their size. Most of Kamchatkan rivers flow in latitudinal direction depending on meridional nature of the main watersheds such as Sredinny and Eastern ranges.
Kamchatkan rivers have mountainous nature in their upper reaches and calm in valleys. Usually many of them deposit spits while flowing into sea and underwater swells and sandbars in mouths.
In mountains rivers flow in relatively narrow V-shaped valleys with steep slopes and have fast current with frequent rapids. Bottom and slopes of valleys are composed of fragmental rocks like boulders, pebbles, and gravel. As rivers get closer to valleys rocks, in valleys and riverbeds, become smaller; current get slower and calmer. In general terms, seaside lowland areas are composition of flat swampy areas concentrated mainly near seashores, wavy and hilly interfluvial spaces, and broad river valleys. In hilly and rangy valleys the riverbeds branch to channels and arms, and they form a lot of bends and old river beds in seaside lowlands.
Mountain rivers are widespread in mountain regions. Basically they correspond to upper sections of rivers, however big rivers have a different pattern. Often at crossing branches of ranges, rivers obtain mountainous nature of current in their middle or even lower stream thanks to steep inclinations of the valley.
Rivers in mountainous regions with maximum level difference have riverbeds with rapids and waterfalls. Alternation of rapids and waterfalls with stagnation sectors is typical for them. Such rivers are notable for their small size and they usually flow on the bottom of narrow valleys with steep slopes. Length of such sectors can be from several per cent of all river length (if a river flows into foothills and a valley down stream) up to 100% (small rivers and creeks which flow in mountain regions all their lengths).
As the relief gets flat the rapids and waterfalls disappear but nature of current is still rapid. In addition, as tributaries flow into rivers their size and water content (i.e. amount of water flowing through river cross-section for a definite period of time) enlarges. Such rivers feature straight shape of the riverbed with separate single islands and forced curves. Formation of such curves is connected with the river stream trying to round rock juts, composed of strong indestructible mountain rocks and thus the river obtains curving shape.
In some areas the mountain rivers form large erosive pits with depth tens of times more than average river depth. These pits are best refuge for fish since current speeds drop down very quickly there.
On can witness sections with rapid current on large rivers of Kamchatka. Narrow valleys with steep slopes, high speeds (> 1 m/s) might be caused by constraint of rivers by branches of mountain ranges. In rivers, which do not have very deep and sloping riverbed, one can meet sections with significant slope that leads to dramatic increase of current speeds which, in connection with low depth and stone riverbed, makes the stream very rapid. Such rivers, as a rule, flow in a single riverbed and just few islands divide the stream to branches. The islands are high and composed of cobblestone accumulation with bushes of birch and alder. Open pebble bars are formed up and down the river of the islands.
Beautiful banks of mountain rivers attract attention. Getting closer to the ranges they look like high rocky benches. Moss and lichen on them give the rocks reddish-brown or green color.
At change from mountain conditions to valley ones the steepness of river valleys and current speed dramatically changes. By these reasons the stream becomes not mighty enough to move river drifts (boulders, pebbles). This material deposits right in the riverbed and forms some distinctive small islands. In result a queer and very dynamic pattern is formed of many canals divided by small islands. Such riverbed types are mostly spread in lower part of not big rivers.
One more distinctive feature of these rivers is huge amount of sunken logs (trunks and branches of various size) in the riverbed because river is getting into a forest area. In periods of spring melting of snow and also after abundant rains the water level and current speed in rivers increase and water flow intensively washes riverbanks. In result, a huge amount of wood material gets into the river and deposits down the stream in pebble bars, near islands or riverside sand bars. It is largest accumulations of branches, stubs and also whole tree trunks that cause breaking the river to canals and some of them have reverse current comparing to the main direction of the river flow. In result it is actually impossible to use the all length of rivers for rafting.
Rivers allocation in basins. All rivers of the Kamchatka Krai belong to basins of Okhotsk and Bering Seas and the Pacific Ocean basin.
Rivers of western Kamchatka flow into Sea of Okhotsk. Most of them start in the Sredinny Range. Smaller part appear in foothills or peat swamps. In their upper reaches they flow in narrow canyons with numerous rapids and waterfalls; in the plain their valleys become wider (up to 5-6 km or 3-4 miles), their banks lower, and current slower. The rivers form canals and have lots of sand bars.
Marshy rivers are totally different to transparent rapid mountain streams. Their riverbed is mostly narrow and deep in peat. Like in swamps streams, their water is dark-brown and current is slow. After rains they swell very much. They usually start from small oval or round lakes.
The largest of rivers flowing into Sea of Okhotsk is the Penzhina River (713 km or 443 miles). The river starts in Kolymsky Range and flows into the Penzhina bay. The Oklan and Chernaya Rivers are the largest tributaries of the Penzhina. The Bolshaya, Tigil, Icha, Vorovskaya, and Krutogorova rivers are distinguished from other rivers in western part of Kamchatka.
Rivers that flow into Bering Sea are even shorter than rivers of western Kamchatka. Most of them have pronounced mountain nature at all length to their mouth. The most large of them start in Sredinny Range: The Ozernaya (length 199 km or 124 miles), Ivashka, Karaga, Anapka, Valovayam. The Vyvenka, Pakhacha, Apuka flow into Bering Sea from the Koryak Upland.
Rivers of South-Eastern Kamchatka flow directly into the Pacific ocean. The Zhupanova, Avacha, and Kamchatka are the largest ones.
The Kamchatka (length 758 km or 471 miles, catchment basin is 55,900 sq km 21,583 sq m) is the largest river of the Krai. It differs from other Kamchatkan rivers since most part of its length is in the Central Kamchatka Lowland and it has mountain nature only in its head. The river has lots of tributaries. There are the Kozyrevka, Bystraya, and Elovka to its left; and the Shchapina and Bolshaya Khapitsa are the largest of its tributaries to its right.
Kamchatka’s rivers are surrounded by landscape that is absolutely unique by vegetation nature. In conditions of spray zone typical for bottomlands, monstrous size grass grows where an adult can be hidden. They are accompanied with bushy scrubs and altogether they create really impassable thickets.
Wild animal paths is one more feature of flooded landscape. Paths are beat even in the most wild borders along water bodies and one can move along them without difficulty (unless meeting with a four-legged pigeon-toed friend.)
There are more than 100,000 big and small lakes in Kamchatka. They can be divided to six types by their nature. Each type belongs to a definite region of the Krai.
1. Numerous crater and retaining lakes are spread in regions of ancient and modern volcanism. Crater lakes (sometimes they contain hot water) have small size and are located on a significant height. Retaining lakes formed in result of river blocking by lava flows (Palanskoye Lake).
Small pools of hot water are often formed in hot spring sites. Large caldera lakes (Kurilskoe Lake) belong to lakes related to volcanism.
2. Ancient lakes compose second big group and located mostly in the valley of the Kamchatka River.
3. Laguna lakes, separated from sea by sandbars are located in coasts, mainly, near river mouths. They have significant size. For example, Nerpichye Lake is the largest lake in Kamchatka. It has an area of 448 sq km (173 sq m) and depth from 4 to 13 m (13-43 ft).
4. Spillway lakes were formed in result of split and descent of some Earth's crust sections. They feature simplicity of banks outline. (Lake Dalnee nearby Paratunka settlement).
5. One more type is glacier lakes located at range foot where they sometimes form a typical landscape.
6. Peat lakes are widely spread in the Krai.
Many lakes were formed under effect of some factors and it is impossible to correspond them to any definite type.
Golden carp and pike can be found in shallow and well warmed lakes. There is Amur carp in some lakes.
At the same time lakes are perfect spawning ground for salmon and Kurilskoye and Nerpichye lakes are the world's best.
Some lakes are rather unique. As an example, Kurilskoe lake is an ancient caldera filled with water. There is not a single lake among Russia's volcanic lakes similar to it by structure. With relatively small size (77.1 sq km or 29.8 sq m) this lake is rather deep (306 m or 1004 ft) and is one of the deepest lakes in Eurasia. Panorama of the lake is peculiar. It is surrounded by volcano grand cones. Banks and underwater slopes are steep and rocky. One can see ancient lake terraces on slopes of volcanoes.
In form of peaks islands arise from the bottom, one of them is three-edged rock called Alaid.
Numerous mountain streams, mixed with hot spring water, feed the lake. Poorly frozen, the Ozernaya river flows out from it. This lake is one of the most important spawning grounds for red salmon.
There are lakes in craters and calderas of many volcanoes which do not froze the whole winter through and that is why ducks and swans often spend winters there.
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