Toktogul reservoir was created in 1973-1976 to store the water for the hydro power dam downstream in the river Naryn, which is still a major source of electricity for Kyrgyzstan and neighboring countries. The Toktogul reservoir is located very close to the Bishkek – Osh highway and is exactly in the middle point of the two cities, about 250 km away from each.
History of Toktogul Reservoir
On September 6, 1973, the sections of the Toktogul bypass channel were shut and the flooding of the Ketmen-Tyubinskaya valley began. The district lost 28.6 thousand hectares of land, including 11 thousand hectares of irrigated arable land, of which 5 thousand hectares were occupied by cotton plantations. In the flooded zone were the regional center Toktogul, 22 villages where more than 20 thousand people lived. The newly built large reinforced concrete bridge disappeared under the water along with the new highway, and today the remains of that road go into the ghostly depths of the reservoir.
On the other hand, the area of irrigated lands of the neighbors in Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan increased by 400 thousand hectares, and on an area of 918 thousand hectares, the provision of irrigation water increased from 70 to 90%. It was a huge sacrifice that was made for the residents of Ketmen-Tyube.
Ketmen Tuybe Valley
Building the reservoir came with a price as a huge amount of almost unexplored archeological sights are now buried under the water in what used to be the Ketme Tuybe valley along the Naryn river together with the modern villages that were located there. Courageous and freedom-loving people had lived in this valley for thousands of years already, isolated from the whole world and protected by mountains. As a visible sign of the ancient history, there was an ancient fortress near the point where Chichkan and Uzun-Akhmat rivers confluence with the Naryn river.
During one of the first archeological expeditions, numerous monuments of various historical periods were found and therefore proving about the life of the Ketmen-Tyube people from the Bronze Age to the 16th century inclusive. The excavated mounds kept the material evidence of the disappeared tribes of the early nomads and the swollen hills of the fortifications are the remains of the cities and villages of the Middle Ages.
Toktogul Reservoir Today
Today Kara-Kul is home to the hydropower plant staff of the reservoir and has grown into a town with a population of about 21 000. The reservoir region is also popular among lovers of fishing, diving, motorcycle, and jeep tours. The reservoir contains carp, crucian, silver carp, grass carp, trout, shrimp, and even jellyfish. Recently, new fish farms have been opened and they have started exporting fish to Kazakhstan.
Toktogul is the name of the most famous Kyrgyzstan’s national poet Toktogul Satylganov. There is also a town name Toktogul, it is located north of the reservoir which is also the center of the same-named region.
Toktogul reservoir stores water for at least 6 major hydroelectric stations such as Kurpsai and Toktogul dams. It is the largest of the reservoirs on the path of the Naryn River, a northern tributary of the Syr Darya. The bright blue color of the water creates an amazing contrast with the arid clay hills around the river. The reservoir area is 284 square km and the depth exceeds 200 m in some places. When the construction of Toktogul Dam started a new city named Kara-Kul was founded to house the dam construction workers.
There are no sandy beaches but the shoreline is good for swimming in several locations and the water is clean. Best beaches are the ones with small stones. In the south part of the reservoir several camps have been built for the dam construction workers that are nowadays being used for recreational purposes for the relatives of the workers of the old times.
Toktogul reservoir has been a popular destination for Kara-Kul, Toktogul town and other nearby towns’ residents ever since it was built. Families and friends gather for summer weekends to swim and have a picnic at the refreshing reservoir. The water temperature of the reservoir reaches 28 degrees during August.
You can stay there even overnight, put up a tent, catch the fish (make sure to find out first about the possible permission requirements), and enjoy the wildlife on the beach of the reservoir or visit the nearest cafes. The cafes around the lake are famous for their deep-fried fresh. Toktogul reservoir belongs to the Jalalabad region along with the more famous destinations of Arslanbob further to the South and Sary-Chelek which is located about 140 km to the North.
Sights near Toktogul Reservoir
Page updated 26.2.2021