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Moyynkum desert.

Trip to desert Moyynkum.

"Went on the melted deserts,
On not trodden tracks,
Under the sky blue
After the flaring pillars"

Maksimilian Voloshin. Koktebel. November 19, 1919.

Travel on deserts of Kazakhstan.

Moyyunkum (or Mounkum) -  the sandy desert in the Southern Kazakhstan, in the territory of Jambyl and  Southern Kazakhstan area. It extends from the southeast to the northwest for  500 km. Height is up to 700 meters above sea level.
From North and East the desert is limited by the valley of Chu river, from  South by  Karatau  and  Kyrgyz  Ala-Tau ridges. Sandy deserts and gray brown soils prevail. On the slopes of barkhans saxaul grows, in decreases – djuzgun and wormwood.
Wild boars, hares, ground squirrels, jerboas live in the desert. The width of the desert is 50 - 150 kilometers, from the north-east it is bordered by the Chu River valley, in the south - by  Kyrgyz Alatau Ridge and Karatau.
The area is about 37.5 thousand square kilometers. Moyyunkum are located in the tectonic depression of the Paleozoic basement (Chu syneclise). The landscape of overgrown and semi-overgrown deep sands was formed by the chalky and fluvial deposits of  Chu River.
The northern part of the desert, adjacent to the Chu Valley is a hilly flatland 15 - 30 kilometers wide. The eastern part forms a terrace to the south of the Chu River and is divided into separate parts with a height of 10 to 25 meters and a length of 2 kilometers.
In the west, a wavy relief predominates. The central part of  Moyyunkum is characterized by high sandy ridges (50 - 70 meters). In the depressions there are groundwater (1 - 1.5 meters), often reaching the surface and forming the lakes.
In the south-east and west the groundwater level drops to 35 - 50 m. The climate of the desert is sharply continental. The average temperature in January in the west is 11.2'С, in the east - 7,5'С, the average temperature in July is 25,6 - 26,9'С.
The absolute minimum temperature is 40 - 44'С, the absolute maximum is 44 - 47'С. The sum of temperatures above 10 degrees is equal to 3860 - 3678 С. The average annual amount of atmospheric precipitation varies from 150 to 330 mm.
Snow cover on average does not exceed 10 - 15 cm. The predominant soil is sandy-desert gray-gray type and gray-brown. On the sands  saksaul, wormwood, berry grow. Boar, cat, hare, ground squirrel, jerboa live.
The territory of Mounkum is used as a winter pasture, partly for agriculture. In the depressions there are considerable stocks of grasses, haymaking is carried out, there are plots of land suitable for sowing lucerne, vegetable and melon crops.
In the future, it is possible to increase the crop area  by irrigation with artesian waters. On the territory of  Mounkum  the Umbet state hunting farm and the Anysay state reserve are organized. The height of the desert in the south is 500 - 600 meters above sea level, in the central part - 400 meters above sea level, in the north 300 meters above sea level, is formed by alluvial eolian sands.
Desert Moyyunkum is an important pasture massif of Kazakhstan - has enough feed for grazing throughout the year. However, for the greater part of the desert, year-round exploitation of pastures is undesirable, since it leads to their reduction.
Moreover, in the seasonal use of pastures grazing of much more livestock is possible. Therefore, the prevailing part of the territory is used in conjunction with the Chui Valley as a winter pasture. For the summer cattle are driven through the Betpak-Dala desert to the semi-desert of the Kazakh Upland (steppes of Sary-Arka).
Sheep, horses, cattle, camels graze in the desert. Among the sands in some areas, in places where groundwater is near, planting of grass forage and mowing are possible. Near the lakes the  irrigation farming may be practiced, that will provide additional feed for livestock and food for shepherds.

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N. A. Gvozdetsky, N. I. Mikhaylov. Physical geography of the USSR. An Asian part, the Edition third corrected and added Moscow "Thought" of 1978.

Alexander Petrov.