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Relief of Aktobe region.

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According to the geomorphological zoning of Kazakhstan, the following geomorphological areas are identified on the territory of the Aktobe region: the Ural-Emba denudation plateau, the erosion-tectonic small hills and lowlands of the denudation plains of the Trans-Urals and Mugalzhar, the Torgai structural-denudation table plain, the structural-denudation and accumulative plain of the Northern Aral Sea region and the structural-denudation Ustyurt plateau.
The southern end of the Ural Mountains and the Mugalzhary Mountains belong to the erosion-tectonic small hills and low mountains, denudation plains of the Trans-Urals and Mugalzhary. This is the most elevated region of Western Kazakhstan.
The region covers the Or-Ilek interfluve, the Mugalzhar mountains with the adjacent part of the Turan Plain in the upper reaches of the Yrgyz river and the southern periphery of Mugalzhar. The highest altitude is Mount Bolshoy Boktybay with a height of 657 meters above sea level and Two Brothers with a height of 634 meters above sea level.
The lowlands of the most elevated part of the Western Mugalzhars are elongated in the meridional direction and consist of many randomly located small hills, connected by bridges with weakly defined saddles. There are many rounded hills with gravelly and rocky peaks, between which stretch either narrow or wide valleys.
The watershed line on the ground is poorly defined. The slopes of the mountains are often dissected by small gullies and narrow channels, while the western slopes are steeper (up to 15 - 20°), the eastern slopes are flatter (up to 10°). In some places along rivers and streams there are cliffs 2 - 17 meters high.
There are few washouts, they are small, about 1 meter deep. In the territory, after geological exploration work, pits with a depth of 1 - 2 meters have been preserved. The Or-Irgiz Upland or peneplain of the Eastern Mugalzhars is an extensive meridionally elongated flat-shoal surface.
The relative elevations on most of the peneplain are no more than 25 meters. Usually these are gently inclined small ridges and ridges, oriented meridionally. In its western part, massifs or individual peaks with relative heights of up to 50 and even 100 meters are preserved.
The Or-Ilek Upland is a plain or plateau with absolute elevations of 350 meters. The relative height of gently sloping (5 - 10°) hills is 5 - 25 meters. In the east, the Ory-Ilek Upland borders on the denudation and accumulative plains of the Ory depression, which extends meridianally to the north of the Western Mugalzhar ridges.
The relief of the plains is slightly undulating. The Ural-Emba denudation plateau borders in the west with the Caspian lowland, in the south with the Ustyrt plateau, and in the east with Mugalzhary, the Shoshkol hills and the Shagyray plateau. The Ural-Emba or Podural denudation plateau is an elevated, slightly undulating, hilly plain occupied by isolated plateau-like and table-top elevations - the Aktolagai, Sankybai mountains, the Shirkala ridge with absolute heights from 100 to 278 meters.
The hills have steep (10 - 20°), sometimes steep slopes up to 24 meters high. The territory is indented by a large number of gullies, ravines and dry riverbeds. The width of the gullies is up to 5 meters, the depth is 1 - 2 meters. The towering hills have a relative height of 30 - 60 meters, the tops are rounded, the slopes are gentle.
Numerous depressions and closed basins are occupied by salt marshes and takyrs. On the right bank of the Zhem River there are small massifs of fixed cellular-lumpy sands (Alshynsay sands). The height of the sand mounds is from 1 - 3 to 5 - 7 meters, the depth of the cells can reach 2 - 3 meters.
The average relative elevations within watersheds range from 20 to 35 meters, but the height of the latter above the bottoms of modern valleys reaches 100 - 120 meters. The absolute heights of the surface of the watersheds decrease from 250 - 350 meters in the north and east of the plateau to 80 - 100 meters in the south and west.
The highest position in the relief is occupied by strata-horizontal denudation plains, divided into a number of separate massifs. Their flat, slightly wavy surface  limited by clear ledges of varying steepness. The elevated part of the plain, dissected by a complex branching river network, is in some places complicated by low hills of various shapes.
Average relative elevations within watersheds range from 20 to 35 meters, absolute elevations of watersheds from 200 to 360 meters. The northeastern edge of the Ural-Emba plateau is a hilly plain crossed by riverbeds, ravines and gullies. The average relative heights of hills and ridges are 100 - 150 m, the steepness of the slopes is no more than 5 - 8°, the peaks are dome-shaped.
The lowest elevations (from 128 to 112 meters) are located along the bed of the Zhem River. River valleys are often limited by cliffs 2 - 8 meters high. In closed depressions there are salt marshes, sometimes impassable. On the right bank of the Zhem River there are two sand massifs: Kumzhargan and Kokzhide.
The sands are hilly, the height of the sand mounds is 4 - 8 meters, the slopes are gentle (up to 10°). The Kumzhargan sands and the outskirts of the Kokzhide sands are semi-fixed with shrubs and herbaceous vegetation. A large area of the Kokzhide massif is occupied by unfixed sands.
The eastern part of the region is located in the southwestern part of the Turgai structural-denudation table plain. The relief has a flat surface, characteristic of interfluves. Most of the territory lies between 100 and 200 meters above sea level, decreasing to the south.
The lowest places with heights of 70 - 90 meters stretch from the northeast to the southwest. The relative elevations of individual positive relief forms are 10 - 15 meters, less often 25 meters. Relief depressions are replete with closed lake basins, elongated in a chain in the meridional direction - traces of ancient runoff depressions.
On the plain, individual table-remnant forms are often found. The South Torgai Plain is characterized by the presence of sandy massifs with hilly-cellular relief. They are composed of quartz, well-rounded and sorted sands, overlying sediments of the first above-floodplain terrace of the Torgai and Irgiz rivers, as well as Upper Pleistocene alluvial-lacustrine formations of the Torgai depression.
The average thickness of aeolian deposits is 2 - 3 meters. A large remnant ridge stretches in the sublatitudinal direction - the Shalkarnur Mountains, with a length of about 150 kilometers. The highest is its southern part with absolute heights from 190 to 230 meters.
From the west, the ridge is limited by erosional ledges up to 30 - 50 meters high. In the south, the mountains descend with sheer cliffs 120 - 140 meters high to the salt marsh Shalkarteniz depression. The slopes are cut by hollows, dry riverbeds and gullies.
The plain between the Torgai River and the Shalkarnur Mountains is a hilly surface sloping towards the river valley with many drainless basins. Absolute elevations vary from 100 to 60 meters. The hills are elongated in the eastern and north-eastern directions, and drop steeply to the west and south.
The slopes have a steepness of up to 15°. The tops of the hills are flat, table-shaped or dome-shaped. The relative elevation of the hills over the basins reaches 40 meters. The bottom of the basins is flat, occupied by swampy meadow vegetation, reeds or salt marshes and takyrs.
The depth of the basins is from 1 to 10 meters with a slope steepness of up to 3°. In the west of the plain, along the Torgai River, there are small tracts of hilly sand. The sands are fixed by semi-shrub vegetation. The Shalkarteniz depression is the drainage of the Torgay River and numerous dry and drying up riverbeds.
On the surface of the salt marsh there are dry riverbeds up to 1 meter deep, often with steep banks. In the lower reaches of Torgay, massifs of hummocky-ridge sands are widespread. The relative heights of hummocky-ridge sands do not exceed 4 - 5 meters. Gentle with soft slopes, they are oriented in the east and northeast direction with a length of 10 - 20 kilometers.
Aeolian sands are fixed by vegetation, but modern deflation processes occur near populated areas and livestock watering holes as a result of grazing. The southeastern part of the region belongs to the structural-denudation and accumulative plains of the Northern Aral Sea region.
The territory is characterized by dissected relief, many drainless depressions, deep dry valleys and ravines. Significant areas are occupied by the so-called “table-residual” relief with a wide development of sandy massifs, the largest of which are Bolshie and Malye Barsuki.
The plains of the Northern Aral Sea region within the region are represented by two geomorphological regions: the Shagyray inclined plateau and the Irgiz-Shalkar region. The Shagyray inclined plateau occupies the extreme eastern part of the region and is a continuation of Ustyurt to the north for more than 100 kilometers
This elevated (150 - 200 meters absolute height) plateau in the west is limited by a steep cliff, up to 160 meters high, at the foot of which is the dry valley of the Shagan River. To the north and east, the plateau gradually decreases towards the Turgai table plain and disappears.
The Shagyray Plateau is a plain with a general slope from northwest to southeast, crossed by the beds of dry rivers flowing in the same direction. The channels are located in deeply incised ravines, often with steep slopes (up to 20°), sometimes turning into screes.
The slopes of the ravines are cut through by a network of gullies and dry riverbeds. From the north and west, the plateau ends in a ledge (ledge) to the surrounding plain. The height of the cliff is up to 160 meters, in its upper part it is steep (up to 40 meters), below it turns into a steep (up to 30°) slope with a large number of remains, settled blocks and rock fragments.
The Cliffs is cut by ravines and many gullies. The relief of the subordinate plain adjacent to the ridge is very hilly, like low mountains. Among the mountains, the Shoshkakol ridge with an absolute elevation of 282 meters above sea level, the Taskimbay, Kutum and others mountains stand out.
The Shoshkakol ridge with absolute heights of up to 405 meters and relative elevations from 40 to 150 meters extends in the meridional direction south of Mugalzhar. The mountain slopes are heavily indented with numerous gullies and dry riverbeds 3 to 5 meters deep.
The Shoshkol ridge is separated from the Shagyray plateau by the valley of the drying Shagan River, strongly crossed by dry riverbeds. The northern part of the plateau is a flat area with flat-topped hills. The hilly plain of the eastern part is characterized by alternating flat-topped hills, small depressions and hollows.
The relative heights of the hills are up to 40 meters, the slopes are gentle (up to 5°). In the thalwegs of many hollows there are  ry beds of temporary watercourses. The Irgiz-Shalkar region is represented by a dissected stratified plain with a “table-outlier” relief formed by meridionally elongated flat-topped ridges and outliers, separated by depressions, deep ravines, gullies and dry channels.
Depths of dissection range from several tens to 200 meters. Various types of tabletop hills are noted: from isolated small flat-topped outcrops with steep slopes to large plateaus, limited on one (usually southern) or two sides by steep cliffs, and on the rest ending in gentle slopes.
A significant area in the Yrgyz-Shalkar region is occupied by the Big and Small Barsuki sand massifs and the alluvial plain. The alluvial plain is located in a wide submeridional lowland, crossing the central part of the territory of the described region from north to south.
The plain almost completely coincides with the ancient valley of the submeridional direction. Its absolute height varies from 160 m in the north to 80 m in the south. On the plain, aeolian mounds are very common, and less often - ridges up to 5 - 7 meters high.
The Big and Small Barsuki sand massifs are characterized by hummocky-cellular forms with a depth of dissection up to 20 meters. The tops of individual mounds have maximum absolute heights for an accumulative plain of 150 - 170 meters.
The cells are deep (15 - 20 meters), but relatively narrow (up to 10 - 30 meters). Among the cellular sands there are many dune areas, usually occupying the tops of individual mounds. Along the periphery of the cellular sands, hummocky-
ellular sands are developed in a narrow strip.
They are mostly fixed, in some places winded, with a depth of dissection of up to 10 meters. The cells here are wide (up to 50 - 70 meters), their bottoms are often covered with moisture-loving vegetation. Numerous mounds up to 10 meters high in places are also developed.
On the western and northern sides, Big and Small Badgers are bordered by a strip of hilly fixed sands, dissected to a depth of 5 meters. Sandy massifs have a submeridional extent. The extreme southern part of the region belongs to the structural-denudation Ustyurt plateau, which is a flat, slightly undulating plain with a general slope from east to west, complicated by saucer-shaped depressions of karst origin.
The depth of such “funnels” is up to 1.5 - 2 meters, with a ratio of diameter and depth of the order of 5: 1 and 10: 1. The saucers are often made of sandy loam eluvial-deluvial material, on the washed soils of which the grass cover usually has a thick and fresh appearance. Sometimes pores with a visible depth of up to 1 meter are observed in the bottoms of saucers.
Absolute heights range from 69 meters to 209 meters. The surface of the plateau has a large number of closed depressions and small gentle hills, barely noticeable on the ground. The Ustyurt plateau ends abruptly towards the Aral Sea with a steep ledge - the Eastern cliff of Ustyurt.
The height of the ridge in some places reaches 150 m. The slopes along their entire length are sheer cliffs in the upper part, and piles of rock fragments and screes down the slope. The lower part of the slope is steep, the height of the cliffs is up to 42 meters.
Descent to the sea is possible only through ravines and gullies. The plain is most dissected on the slopes of the North Ustyurt trough, the axial part of which is a series of drainless depressions, the bottoms of which are occupied by the Kosbulak, Asmantai, Sam, Dongeleksor saline land.
The sands are low-hilly, semi-fixed. The largest salt marshes - Sam, Altaisor, Asmantai-Matai - have a depth of up to 20 meters, with clearly defined slopes. The northern slope of the Asmantai-Matai saline land the eastern slope of the Kosbulak saline land are very steep (up to 20°), in some places turning into ledges up to 25 meters high, cut by gullies and dry riverbeds.
The most significant dry riverbeds are 3 - 4 meters wide and 1.0 - 1.5 meters deep. The areas of the plain inclined towards the litters are intensively eroded, especially near the litters, where many ravines have developed. On the territory there is an array of fixed lumpy sands - the Mataykum sands.
The sands are low-hilly, semi-fixed. The height of the sand mounds is 4 - 8 meters. From the north and west, the plateau abruptly breaks off towards the salt marshes with a steep ledge - the Northern Cliff of Ustyurt. The relative height of the northern cliffs in some places exceeds 100 - 150 meters.
The slopes of the northern part of the cliff are steep for a long distance with a height of up to 41 meters. At the foot of the ridge there is a large accumulation of rocky placers, rock fragments, and crushed stone. Cliffs is cut by many gullies

Natural resources of the Aktobe region. Ecoproject LLP. 216 pp.

Photos by:
Alexander Petrov.