Karkaraly National Park
Karkaraly National Park
Karkaraly National Park is located in the east part of Karaganda Province,about 220 km east from Karaganda. Karkaraly State National Nature Park was set up in 1998 and its territory is about 112 000 hectares. Karkaraly was a popular site during the Soviet time for industrial workers to get in touch with nature. The Karkaraly and Kent Mountains are also famous for their unique rock formations and hidden mountain lakes. You can go hiking, cross-country skiing or downhill skiing in the park. Basseyn (or Baceen) and Shaitankol lakes are the park’s most popular sights. Karkaraly has a lot in common with the Bayanaul national park few hundred kilometers almost straight north from here, when considering the nature and formation of the stones in the area.
Shaitankol means “Devil’s Lake” in Kazakh and it is one of the most mysterious lakes in Kazakhstan. Shaitankul lake lies at an altitude of 1200 meters above sea level and has no feeding rivers or springs, but the water level here never decreases or rises, despite either the abundant melting of snows, or heavy rains, or, conversely, long periods of summer dryness. Till today, neither the chemical composition of the water nor the depth of the lake is known. No one has ever seen the bottom of this reservoir. Tourists can only walk to the lake in summertime, the route taking about 3 hours. In winter time it is very hard to reach due to the snow.
There is a legend about Shaitankul: Long time ago there was a wealthy man name Tleuberdy, who had a beautiful 16-year-old daughter, Sulyshash. She had eyes only for a horse-herder named Altay, but Tleuberdy would never permit his daughter to marry such a poor suitor. So Altay and Sulyshash secretly left their village, together with Altay’s friend Kaysar. They traveled across great expanses of steppe and finally found shelter in the Karkaraly Mountains next to Shaitankol Lake. Altay and Kaysar left Sulyshash in a cave by the side of the lake and went hunting. Kaysar fell to his death from a cliff face while attempting to chase an arkhar. In the meantime, father Tleuberdy had set fire to the forest, to burn out the young lovers. Overcome by smoke, Sulyshash ran out of the cave and straight into the path of a wild tiger. She threw herself into the lake to save herself from this tiger. An echo of her words of farewell reached Altay, who rushed back to the lake but he was too late: only Sulyshash’s velvet skullcap remained in the surface. Finally Altay plunged his dagger into his heart, broken by the sorrow of losing Sulyshash.
Karkaraly town is also known as Karkaralinks in Russian and it is the district capital and a lovely town of 11,000 people at the foot of the Karkaraly hills. The town fort was established here in 1824 and Karkaraly developed as a Cossack settlement. In 1868, it became the capital of a Tsarist district, or uyezd, forming part of the Semipalatinsk region. The place served most of the 20th century as something of a farming-focused backwater. Its Tsarist buildings today serve as reminders of a 19th-century relative heyday when this was an important training center.
Lake Basin is located 1200 m above sea level and 4,5 km northwest of the Karkaraly town. You can reach the lake by following the Fairy Tale Eco-Trail. The lake is small, the size being only about 14 ha. The lake is accessible only by foot and hiking to the lake takes about 4 hours with a round trip. This trail to reach the lake will also take you through pine forests, unique rock formations and wonderful views from the lake.
The Karkaralinsky mountains are the most beautiful places in the region. The mountains are relatively low as the highest point of these mountains is 1403 meters above sea level but remember that the are in the middle of the flat steppe. When you look at them from a distance, they resemble an old women’s hat. The highest peaks of Karkaraly are the Mount Shankoz reaching 1360 meters above sea level, Bugaly 1323 m and Koktyube 1254 m. Zhirensakal Peak which is also also known as Komsomol Peak, is the highest point inside the Karkaraly National Park, its height being 1403 meters. The top of Zhirensakal is crowned with three huge stone “towers”. At the time when Cossacks lived in the village of Karkaralinsk, this rock mass was called “Kabaniy Shish”, because wild boars were found in the region.
Metals such as molybdenum and tungsten have been found in the Tasbulak, Apanas, Shonai, Kuigenkystau and Zhapak-Karagai tracts. The accumulation of minerals is especially significant in the Akkezen, Kyzylshoky, Naizashoky and Saryshoky tracts. There are also a lot of decorative and semi-precious stones in these places. In three caves of the Maliksay tract, you can see crystal facets of rock crystal and topaz that shine with light.
The Kent Mountains are located in the southeast part of the Karkaraly park and they are a relatively young mountain range as they were formed in the Paleozoic era, 250 – 300 million years ago, when in place of the mountains there was a sea. The water in the area decreased only 1,2 – 2 million years ago when the ancient Paleozoic shield was broken by granites. There was a mass uplift of areas that became the Kent Mountains. During all this time, the indomitable steppe wind, like an ingenious creator, did a good job on forming the bizarre mountain reliefs of the area. The mountains are naturally formed as if a sculptor sculpted caves, grottoes, crevices and water pools into the stones. The Kent Mountains keep many secrets and mysteries, one of them being the Kyzyl-Kent Palace.
Kyzyl-Kent Palace is a place with settlements from the Bronze Age and early Iron Age dating back to lake Bronze age 12-9 centuries B.C. by the old banks of the Kyzylsu river. There are proof of the inhabitants of Kent using huge boilers in which соррег and tin were combined to make the alloy. Moreover, Kent was an important political as well as an economical regional hub. Ceramics and other artifacts have been found in the area which are the evidence of the settlement having many commercial and political contacts with western Siberia, Central Asia, Xinjiang and Iran already about 3000 years ago.
The actual palace that was found here, consisted of a large chamber 5 fathoms wide and long, of small rooms attached to the right and left and a larger room at the back. Kyzyl Kent ruin is one of the most mysterious monuments of Kazakhstan which is placed far away from the nearest towns. There are still arguments between the archeologist as well as scientists about the settlement. One version states that Kyzyl-Kent is the remains of the ancient Buddhist temple, the second story says that the palace was built by Buddhists-Dzhungars in the 18th century.
How to get to Karkaraly National Park
There are busses and shared taxis operating from Karaganda to the Karkaraly (Karkaralinsk) and the trip takes about 4 hours. There are several different level accommodation options available and it is also possible to camp in the national park area.