Sunday, 14 October 2018

The mighty Yenisei, one of the four great rivers of Arctic Siberia


2.Yenisei River

The majestic, awe-inspiring Yenisei is almost a whole world - a truly Siberian world, as its basin, starting in Mongolia, then spreads through ‎2 580 000 km² of central Siberia.

The upper part of the Yenisei River Basin includes Lake Baikal (see here), and nearby historic town of Irkutsk (also mentionned here) on the Angara river, the main tributary to the Yenisei. Both are central features of the History, geography and culture in Siberia, and have somehow become travelers utopian destinations.

The Yenisei at its source, at the lake Kara-Balik.

Rising in Mongolia, the Yenisei flows generally from south to north across central Siberia, traversing steppe grasslands, then taiga forest, and finally tundra as it runs into the Kara sea.

It may well be one also of the most beautiful rivers

With a length of around 4000 km, the Yenisei flows through a mountainous region in its middle section.

Mainly in the middle course, canyons, falls and rapids

Through the Khakassia region, before Krasnoyarsk, the river starts a quieter course amidst magnificent landscapes:

An important water flow into the Yenisei is brought from the tributary Kureyka river, with the most powerful falls in Russia:

On the Kureyka also exist hydroelectric dam and power station.

Russian cossacks first settled on the Yenisei in the early 17th century with the major settlement founded at Krasnoyarsk, ca. 1626. Now an industrial and rather unpleasant metropolis, still Krasnoyarsk is the centre of urban life in the heart of Siberia.

The Trans-Siberian runs across the Yenisei here on a bridge from 1896, "a typical parabolic polygonal truss bridge" awarded in Paris 1900 World Exhibition:

The Trans-Siberian line was one of the main factors of developpment of Krasnoyarsk; here, the river routes and the railway complement each other, creating a network for modern urban life to conquer this part of Siberia.

From Moscow, the train no. 55/56 ‘Yenisey’ takes 60 hours for a journey of over 4000 km.

The most distinctive features of Krasnoyark are the river banks and this concrete bridge from 1961, the Communal Bridge:

Pedestrian walk by yhe Yenesei. There is also a river cruise boat operating from Krasnoyarsk.

Communal Bridge at sunset

Trade barge on the Yenisei

Some miles downriver, before Lesosibirsk, the Yenisei is fed by its most important tributary, a long way far from its source in Lake Baikal: the Angara.

The Angara river is the main tributary to the Yenisei.

From here the river starts its flatland course meandering through the tundra. For centuries the Yenisei was the center of Siberian fur trade as well as hunting and fishing activities, but since soviet times there has been intense industrial development, particularly mining at Norilsk. Industry has been made possible by a series of massive hydroelectric dams on the Yenisei.

So this is what Norilsk looks like: "Harsh industrialized landscapes, smokestacks, pipelines everywhere, muddy wasteland instead of lawns or parkland, box-like heavy industry buildings and installations; grayness, gloominess".

Norilsk fumes over the Yenisei: the most polluted city in the world

The frozen Yenisei:
Frequently under -30ºC as it enters the highest latitudes deep north of the Artic Circle, the Yenisei freezes part of the year.

In this section, Dudinka is a huge river port serving Norilsk.

A small icebreaker forces its way through thick ice at Dudinka

Boy riding a bike on the iced banks of the Yenisei

This is one of the most dreadful regions in Siberia: following the Yenisei northwards, the town of Igarka was meant to be the terminal of the infamous railway from Salekhard which costed the life of many thousands prisoners of the Gulag. It was never built, but rusty remains of the rails and train engines keep the memory of the tragedy.

After Dudinka, the Yenisei starts a larger and larger estuary, then a delta until the final gigantic gulf into the Kara Sea.

The estuary

This is the longest (732 km) estuary in Eurasia, with a maximum channel width of approx. 50 km.

The delta consists of several branches constantly changing its course over the marshy terrain. Piles of driftwood are stocked in multiple sandy islets.

Finally, the Gulf. An important harbour lies there, the port town of Dikson. Founded in 1915 by Swedish Arctic pioneer Oscar Dikson, it's the northernmost town in Asia, at 73°30′ N, 80°31′ E,  known as "capital of the Arctic".

Dikson, a major port in the Northeast Route through the Artic Ocean.

Nuclear icebreaker 'Taymyr' operating at Yenisei Gulf.

Despite all the ugly urban and industrial environment of some sections, most of the Yenisei is still a place to enjoy and dream.

Evening at the Yenisei

Read more:

the mytical Lena, a Siberian river with History.