Hydrology

Фото If to join all Altai rivers into one, then it is possible to belt our planet by the equator almost one and a half time. There are actually lots of rivers in the Altai, more than 20 thousand! The Altai rivers are very different and diverse. In the mountains they are rapid, in slightly sloping places their stream changes. They flow slowly and calmly.
The river valleys are often narrow deep ravines with steep, almost upright slopes. The valley bottoms and riverbeds are full of gravel and boulders, and in some places where fundamental rock formations overlook there are rapids. Also many rivers have waterfalls. For instance, only the Katun River basin has about 7 thousand waterfalls! The Central Altai is especially rich in numerous various waterfalls: Tekelyu (60 m) located on the similarly-named river, waterfall cascade on the Shinok river (10 to 70 m), hard-to-reach waterfall cascade Rossypnoy (35 m) located on one of the sources of the Katun River, on the southern slop of Mt.Belukha, and many others.
The Altai rivers have mixed nourishment by the inflow of snow melt water and summer rains, a long spring-summer period of high water, connected with non- simultaneous snow melting on different altitudes, and a small winterflow. Glaciers are very important for the nourishment of the rivers of the high mountain areas of the Central Altai. Their melting supports the high water level during the whole summer.
The Altai rivers start freezing in autumn. Some small rivers and large streams are frozen to their bed. But often the waterflow still goes on and in this case water is pressed out and flows above the ice in some places. It causes an intensive growth of aufeis, wide-spread in the basins of the Biya, the Katun, the Charysh, the Peschanaya. Aufeis are usually 1-1,5 m wide, sometimes up to 3-4 m. The swift-flowing rivers such as the Katun, the Biya, the Bashkaus, the Chyuya and others freeze up only in some parts. Cascade and hanging aufeis can appear on river rapids and waterfalls. They are extraordinary beautiful, especially on sunny days when the snow sparkles and glints in the sun.


ФотоThe most significant rivers are the Katun (665 km long) with its tributaries – the Argut and the Chyuya, the Biya (306 km), the Chulyshman (205 km) and the Ob which is formed by the confluence of the Katun and Biya rivers. The Katun is the largest mountain river in the Altai, and the Ob is the longest in Russia and the second longest river in Asia. The main part of its basin (about 85%) is on the West Siberian Plain, the south-east part is in the mountains of the South Siberia (the Altai, the Kuznetsk Ala Tau, the Salair Range and the Gornaya Shoriya region).
There are lots of lakes in the Mountain Altai. Most of them are moraine-dam and cirque lakes, located in topographic low of basal moraines of quaternary glaciers. The largest lake of the Altai region Teletskoye Lake fills the narrow cavity of tectonic origin. The Talmenye, Kucherlin, Multinsky, Shavlinsky and many other lakes astonish by their picturesque beauty. The lakes of the Kulundinskaya plain are famous for their medical and mineral properties.
Most Altai lakes are of cirque origin. They have an oval or almost round shape with bold rocky shores. Sometimes rockslide tails go down into the lakes. The depth of such lakes can reach 35-50 m. Their wonderfully pure water of turquoise colour is cold even on the hot days of July and doesn’t heat to more than +8…+10°С. The lakes spillway is either in form of waterfalls (over a rocky rapid – riegel), or under a dumped moraine located on the edge of a riegel.
Moraine-dam lakes are the most picturesque decorations of the mountain landscape. Many of them such as Talmenye, Kucherlin, Multinsky and Shavlinsky Lakes stretch for several kilometers with depths up to 30 and 50 meters. Depending on the Sumner position line their shores are surrounded by conifer forests or steep rocky slopes with stretched stone rockslides. The water in such lakes is very cold; its colour can vary from milky white, plumbeous to turquoise. The lakes located near glaciers are influenced much by mantles of glacial drift, which contribute to fast silting of lake beds.
Thermokarst lakes appeared as a result of melting of lenses of fossil glaciers. These lakes can be seen only in the permafrost zone. They have a small size and depth. Their colour is usually dark-brown because of a big amount of organics in water. A lot of such lakes are located in the Chyuyskaya steppe. On high parts of ancient valleys and in floodplains one can very often see saucer lakes. There are many such lakes in the interfluve of the Jazator River and Ak-Alakhi, the Chyuya basin, the Koksa basin etc. The largest is the Manzherok lake situated in the meander of the ancient valley of the Katun river.


Фото The lakes of the karst origin can be seen in the places exposed to erosion of rock formations mainly on the Cherguinsky, Seminsky and Terecktisnky ridges. These lakes have small basins with a diameter up to 30-40 m and depth of not more than 3 m. The only exception is the Lake Aya, 400 m long and 380 m wide. This lake is one of the most famous in the Altai for its transparent warm water.
There is a small island (20x6 m) almost in the center of it. The surroundings of the lake are scenic beauty. The mountain landscapes, caves and pine forests located on the left shore of the Katun refresh the eye.
And the largest lake of the Altai region -Teletskoye Lake – is of the tectonic origin. It is one of the deepest lakes of Russia and the world (325 м); it is also a giant fresh water reservoir. This lake is traditionally considered to be a symbol of the Altai. The name ‘Teletskoye’ comes from the name of a tribe (telesy) that inhabited the lake shores at the moment when it was discovered by the Russian pioneers. In the Altai language it is called Altyn-Kel, which means ‘golden lake’.

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