Ili River

Ili River

Ili River (Or Ile river) is one of the largest rivers running in the Almaty region. It originates from an altitude of 3540 meters in the Chinese Tien Shan mountains, where the source is located at the confluence of the Tekes and Kunges rivers. The length of Ili is 1439 km, of which 815 km flows on the territory of Kazakhstan. The largest tributaries of the Ili are Turgen, Talgar, Kurty, Chilik, Charyn (through the Charyn canyon) and Usek. On its way the river passes through very different landscapes from canyons to deserted areas and green water fowl paradises.

After reaching Kazakh side, Ili river flows to the Kapchagai reservoir and passes the Altyn Emil national park at its northern bank. Ultimately the river flows into the western part of Lake Balkhash, freshening and desalinating it. Before flowing to Balkhash, the river forms a vast delta with permanent branches called Topar and Zhideli, as well as many backwaters, creeks and small lakes that often change form from year to year. 

A vast green wetland area formed by the Ili river in Kazakhstan when the river flows in to the reservoir Kapshagay
Ili river flowing towards Balkhash

In the early 20th century, the river was a fairly busy waterway from western China. In 1729, a battle of the Dzungars and Kazakhs took place here. Today Ile is popular among tourists for the lush nature, birds and especially sailing with rafts to Balkhash is popular. Famous sandy mountains of Altyn Emel national nature park, where the famous Przewalski’s horse is now bred are also by the banks of the Ili river.

Sights and destinations along Ili River

Page updated 25.5.2021

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