You are here

Home » Almaty region and North Tien-Shan mountains. Tours in Almaty.

The Ili river. Kazakhstan.

Rafting on the Ili river.

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step” 

Lao Tzu.

 Expedition by jeeps from Almaty to Kyrgyzstan.  

The name of the river comes from the Mongolian word “Ilansu” that means twinkling, sparkling. The length of Ile River is 1439 km, the length of the river on the territory of Kazakhstan is 815 km. The river starts in China, on the territory of Almaty oblast it forms the artificial reservoir Kapchagai, and it flows into Balkhash Lake.
Large tributaries of Ili are Turgen, Talgar, Kurty, Chilik, Charyn, Usek. Ile flows into Balkhash with several branches (bakanas) – Shetbakanas, Ortabakanas, Narynbakanas forming the wide delta. The river is navigated to the border with China and further upstream.
In the flood-lands of Ile River in rushes, tugai, there are sazan, pike and other fish. There are also musk-rats, cane cats, zhetysu pheasants, white-head cranes. The name of the river comes from the Mongolian word “Ilansu” that means twinkling, sparkling.
Ili is formed due to the merger of Kunges and Tekes rivers that flow from Central Tien Shan. On the territory of Kazakhstan it flows along the intermountain plain, its valley is wide and flat. The river stream often is branched into the channels separated by the islands overgrown with bushes and rush.
The river valley gets narrower only in the area of Kapshagai Ravine, after that it becomes the lowland river. Ile flows into Balkhash with several branches (bakanas) forming wide delta. Its source is in the Almaty region; on its way back from China it forms the Kapchagai reservoir, eventually flowing into Lake Balkhash.
Long ago the Ili was busy with traffic to and from western China. Today it's a popular destination for adventure holidays, especially rafting to Balkhash. The dam and electric power station that formed the Kapchagai reservoir (70 km from Almaty) were constructed near the town of Kapchagai in 1965 -1980.
Several burial mounds were found at the site, and to this day the waves of Kapshagai wash up ceramic and bronze fragments on the shore. Some call Kapshagai a sea: it is 22 km at its widest point and 45 m deep and covers an area of 1,847 sq. km.
Along its shores are health spas, guest- houses, beaches and fishing boats. Kapshagai's waters teem with pike-perch, bream, wild carp, chub and sheat-fish. There is a small aquapark in the town. The Altyn-Emel National Park is on the eastern shore of the reservoir.
Tamgaly-Tas is also very popular with Almaty's rock-climbers, who gather here in spring and autumn.Despite its desert and semi-desert landscape, the Ili river valley is one of the most pictur esque places in the Almaty region.
You can step into a different world by visiting the Ili tugais, Altyn-Emel's very own "jungle" - dense thickets of weeping willows, Asian poplars and Ili barberry that have spread along the river-bank. The many pheasants and hares feel at home in the tangle of trees and bushes.
You may come across roe deer, wild boars, and sometimesj'eirans. The Ili-or Ili in pure Kazakh-is the most important river in Zhetisu. Where the name originates remains uncertain. The Mongol word ilansu means “glittering water”, while in Chinese, the river’s name could also mean “eastern”.
One of its tributaries has its source on Kazakhstan territory, but then bends into China, where the Hi grows and then flows back into the country from the east. After absorbing many other rivers over a distance of 768 kilometres, the Hi drains into Lake Balkhash through a large delta.
The caravans of the northern Silk Road often followed its course, and many stone ruins on its banks testify to ancient settlements and the intense trading activity of antiquity. Turan tigers lived in the lli Delta until as recently as 1939, where the reed is almost impenetrable and grows up to five meters high.
Today, anglers are the most common species seen on the banks of the generally quiet river. At weekends thousands of city people head for the river because of its rich fishing - although the Amur carp, sander (or pike-perch) and giant catfish are not always the real goal of people on weekend fishing trips.
(Many a man has come home with fish from the market after having spent the whole weekend with his friends living on vodka from the car boot, shashlyk from tlie grill, guitar music, mosquitoes and campsite romance.)
The lli is long, and if you want a peaceful excursion away from the crowds that is easy to arrange. Various tourist agencies offer boat trips as far as Kapshagay Reservoir, and you can continue the trip down the river beyond the dam by raft or boat.
This is a wonderful place for a picnic, to explore the surrounding area, to fish or to climb The view from the rocks, which are easy to climb, is magnificent. One can easily imagine the surrounding hills populated by large herds of horses, sheep and cattle, women in multicoloured robes and their children playing outside the yurts.
Not for nothing w he opposite riverbank chosen several years ago for the Kazakh historical film Nomad. The film-set town is still there to be viewed There is absolute silence in the Tamgaly area during the week, but at the weekend and in summer you share this idyllic spot with anglers, picnic-lovers and shouting and singing cityfolk passing by on rafts.
Local travel companies otter this lour from Almaty at reasonable prices. Downstream. beyond the village of Bakanas, a dried-up river of the same name splits off to the right, to fork more than once into several branches a few kilometers further down.
Those not wishing to venture so far into the desert can also visit the remains of the Bayauly caravanserai (X - XI centuries AD) on the right branch of the Ili not far from the village of Kereke. To get there you must leave the main road in Bakbakty and drive through Birlik, which has the only normal bridge crossing the right branch of the Ili.
There are no organized tours to these almost forgotten caravanserais, but if you are determined to see them, be sure to hire the services of a good local guide, take sufficient water and provisions, and a spade and wide mat to get your car out of the many sand traps to which it will inevitably succumb.
The lower reaches of the Ili and its delta are worth exploring over a period of several days. Thousands of small and larger lakes, with swimming potential on their sandy shores (as well as on the Ili itself), a rich variety of animal life and the contrast between desert dunes, lily meadows.
Togaу and reed forests make this an adventurer's dream. It is wonderful country for ornithologists in particular, and each year in May, the ecological organization Tabigat organizes raft tours on the Ili.

The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.The Ili river in Almaty region.

Authprity:
The guidebook across Kazakhstan . Authors Dagmar Schreiber and Jeremy Tredinnick.   Publishing house "Odyssey".2010. 

Photos
Alexander Petrov.