THE LOWER REACHES OF RIVER ANGARA — THE «WILD RIVER».
Beyond the dam of Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro, there begins the stretch of River Angara that is still preserved in its natural condition. This is the only place (not taking into account the stretch below Irkutsk that was to a considerable degree developed by man) to see the river in its original condition, the way it used to be in the upper reaches. Vast volume of water is carried by the powerful current towards Yenisei, as if running to freedom away from the chain of stale reservoirs and forgetting about the grey backs of ferro-concrete dams that were restraining it.
The operating area of the East-Siberian River Lines ends beyond the dam of Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro. The lower reaches are serviced by the ships of the River Yenisei Lines. However, the 190 km channel from Usf-Ilimsk to Kezhma has neither guaranteed navigation, nor regular passengers traffic, which obstructs aquatic tourism.
Downstream from the dam, on the left bank, the panorama of the city, that descends from the coastal terraces down to the river in an amphitheatre, comes into view. The blocks of apartments and industrial installations of Ust’-Ilimsk Pulp and Paper Industries Amalgamated on the levelled right bank are remote and only hardly discernible by the factory chimneys. The section of the city on the left bank stretches for more than 10 km along River Angara, merging with the old settlement Nevon along the way. 17 km downstream the city again reminds about its presence by the scum of diffused sewage discharge, that washes on for tens of kilometres downstream.
Downstream for Ust’-Ilimsk, River Angara flows between elevated forested banks in a bed 1-2 km wide. Along all of the 96 km stretch of the river within Irkutsk Region, there is only one populated settlement Keuf on the left bank, while the former villages Tushma, Edarma and Kata virtually do not exist anymore. The landscape is enlivened by a series of islands: big and small, low and elevated, forested, grassed, and rocky. The water in the after-bay of Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro is rather cold.
The administrative borderbetween Irkutsk Region and Krasnoyarsk Territory goes on the right. The next 745 km, River Angara flows within Krasnoyarsk Territory, crossing the yet underdeveloped, but rich in natural resources, reaches of lower Angara Riverside. The river changes its predominant direction from northwards to westwards and keeps to it the rest of the way to the estuary.
For almost 100 km from the border of the Territory to the village of Kezhma, River Angara carries its waters through a broad valley (the distance between the hard shores from 3 to 7 km), branching into river-arms and belts between numerous big and small islands. The natural conditions of the islands, wetlands and lower terraces being beneficial for agriculture and livestock raising, the settlements and detached households existed there since the times of old. Downstream to Kezhma, on the banks and islands, there used to be the settlements Savina, Privalikhina, Frolovo, Sokolova, Usol’tseva, Selengino, Panovo, Sogra, Aksoenovo, Mozgovaya. Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of those places, the pieces of old wooden architecture, household and religious items, and even a distinctive «Riverside» dialect of the locals, the «kezhmaries», preserved. The isolation, however, caused a lot of settlements and villages to disappear in recent years. Young people were migrating towards big cities, while older people died. These processes were accelerated with the beginning of the groundwork for the project of the fourth stage in the River Angara Chain — Bogutchansk Reservoir. Relocation of population that destroys their traditional life-style, is under way there. At present, there are not many old villages left.
A large and old settlement Kezhma, (190 km from Ust’-Ilimsk or 651 km from the estuary), founded already in the XVII century, is located on the elevated right bank, visible from a great distance. In 1988 it passed the status of the administrative center of the district to the new town of Bogutchansk Hydro constructors — Kodinsk, and the population gradually started leaving, though Kezhma is still a major (four thousand population) settlement. For a long while Kezma served as a starting point for the expeditions of the Tungusskii Meteorite discoverer L. Kulik: this was the place from where a difficult track in the wilderness went to Vanavara on River Podkamennaya Tunguska, and on to the location of the mysterious phenomena, that occurred in 1908 and remained enigmatic to these days. From the elevated bank of Kezhma, there opens the inimitably beautiful view of the broad water-plane of the river, the island and the opposite bank. Breathless in front of the opening space, one cannot help being awed at the wisdom and aesthetic perception of our ancestors, for their choice of «fine» places to live.
Downstream from Kezhma, there begins guaranteed navigation and regular aquatic traffic, including passenger service by the shallow-draught «Zarya». On the whole, the lower reaches of River Angara are relatively shallow along the channel, and guaranteed depths do not exceed 0.95-1.2 m, whereas the depths of 3-5 m predominate. The river heats up gradually, in the vicinity of Kezhma and downstream, bathing is fairly possible.
46 km downstream from Kezhma, there begins the head of Turgenev island, more than 20 km long, the largest one on River Angara. There are two villages on the island — Zaimka and Aleshkino, and the first major boulder bottom bar on the lower River Angara — Sen’kina Shivera, is found there.
Beyond Turgenev island, the bed of the river narrows. The river cuts through the elevated Kovinskaya mountain range and Priangarskoye plateau. In several places, the river crosses outcrops of trapps that form six rapids within 75 km of channel — Kureiskaya, Gorokhovaya, Medvezh’ya, Kosoi Byk, Kashina, and Glukhaya, a difficult channel for navigation with the velocity of current 3.4 cm/c. The banks are constituted of picturesque multicoloured sandstone, limestone, and shale. There are also outcrops of rock in certain locations along the channel.
In summer, the rapids make feeding grounds for masses of such valuable fish as grayling. Those places are very attractive for fishing. Fishers from the villages and settlements of The Riverside travel for tens and even hundreds of kilometres to fish, for instance, on Gorokhovaya rapid.
The riverside from Kezhma to Kodinsk is rather thinly populated: there are only seven settlements along the 200 km stretch. 296 km downstream from Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro, a fairly large tributary, River Kova, flows into River Angara from the left. There, an interesting site of primitive man was discovered, and a long-term project of archeological excavations is currently under way. 384 km downstream from Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro (or 457 km from the upper reaches) the river is blocked by the dam of Bogutchansk Hydro, currently under construction, that rests upon the elevated rocky banks of the river. This is the prospective fourth stage of the River Angara Chain. The river-bed was checked by the dam in 1987, but the construction of the plant and the bed of the reservoir are not completed at present, so the river still preserves in its natural, non-affluent condition. The town of hydroelectric power plant constructors’, the young Kodinsk, is currently being built on the left bank 20 km away from the
river, on the prospective shores of Bogutchansk Reservoir. Kodinsk is the largest municipality and the only town in the lower reaches of River Angara, which already has great potential for further growth — the automobile road Sedanovo — Bogutchansk Hydro, high-voltage transmission line Bratsk-Kodinsk, extensive construction facilities, permanent urban housing, the only one bridge crossing of the river via the dam in the whole of the Lower Riverside. The commissioning of Bogutchansk Hydro into operation could transmit a powerful impulse for the development of Kodinsk and the district, though at the same time the event is capable of aculeating the existing ecological, social and economic problems to the extreme, thus the future of the plant is not finally decided yet. A mode of operating the plant on total storage lowered by 25-30 m is under consideration. Conservation of the construction for indefinite period of time is also a possibility.
A lock is installed in the dam of the Bogutchansk Hydro, which enables the passage of ships and rafts through. The volume of rafted timber is constantly growing from the border of Krasnoyarsk Territory downstream to the lower reaches of River Angara. The Riverside forests are internationally renowned for the quality of their timber, the famous Riverside pine being the most valuable kind. Major timber works on the banks of River Angara log and raft millions of cubic meters of timber annually.
Below Bogutchansk dam, River Angara receives two considerably large tributaries — Tchadobets from the right (24 km away) and Mura from the left (57 km away). In the estuary of River Tchadobets, there is a peculiar old village Tchadobets and a rock cliff Tchadobetskii Pop, that are worth seeing. One is beheld by the charm of uninhibited wild elements in the estuary of River Mura, where the most terrible, thunderous Murskii Rapid stretches across the narrow bed of River Angara (velocity of current 3.2 m/c) pressed between the mountains on its banks. All the water-plane is studded with protruding or submerged boulders, and the only narrow navigable passage shaves close to the left bank, where River Mura gushes in from its sheer canyon.
From there on, River Angara flows between elevated banks within the bed 1.5-2.5 km wide. 512 km from the Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro and 329 km from the estuary, there is the ancient settlements Bogutchany, known since the year 1642. Bogutchany is the administrative center of the district with the same name, a large timber haulage facility and municipality (12.5 thousand population) by local standards. The railroad Reshoty-Karabula that connects the Lower Riverside with the Trans-Siberian Railroad, stopped 35 km short of the river and the settlement. 15 upstream from Bogutchany, there is Kosaya Rapids — the proposed location for another hydro-electric power plant on River Angara, designed as a low-pressure installation. Mean water-temperature in the vicinity of Bogutchany is the same 19-20 C degrees.
Beyond Bogutchany, the traffic on the river gets more active: more rafts go downstream, while upstream from River Yenisei, there go dry cargo ships and tankers. Coastal cliffs that stretch for more than 7 km below the settlement Pintchuga, make an unforgettable sight. There are also occurrences of rapids — Shuntarskaya, Potaskuiskii Byk, Alad’ina, Vydumskii Byk, Grebenskii Byk. The latest projects of hydro power generation propose the construction of a low-pressure installation in Vydumskii passage (163 km from the estuary).
On the right bank of the river, 722 km from Ust’-Ilimsk Hydro and 119 km from the estuary, a comparatively large settlement Motygino (8.1 thousand population), is located — an administrative capital of the district, that also functions as an important transportation and distribution center. Southwards from the settlement to the railroad station Kansk, there is a winter automobile road, and a four-seasons road heads northwards to the mining installations of Razdolinsk and Yuzhno-Yeniseisk. The location of Motygino itself is quite picturesque and attractive, that being the Estuary of River Rybnaya, where River Angara expands embracing a large archipelago. 14 km downstream from Motygino, there is a small village Rybnoye, founded as Rybinsk Fortalice in 1628 — the first Russian outpost in River Angara basin.
51 km downstream from Motygino, and 68 km from the estuary, River Angara receives its largest tributary — River Taseyeva. This is the only navigable tributary in the lower reaches of River Angara, on which intensive timberrafting to River Angara is operated. Due to the effect of this tributary and the presence of major islands, River Angara expands to 5-6 km below the estuary of River Taseyeva.
39 km from River Angara estuary, on the left bank, there is the settlement Novoangarsk, known for its recently started mining operations in the country’s richest Gorevsk deposit of lead and zinc ore. A particular feature of the deposit is the fact, that the major part of it is located below the level of River Angara bed and even immediately under it, thus the project of hydro-electric power generation development of the lower reaches of River Angara, and midstream River Yenisei had to be altered a number of times to provide the best solution to the problem. The selected project proposes an engineering protection for the open excavations in the Gorevsk deposit in the form of a dam, that would push the river back from the left shore by about 1 km.
Beyond Novoanrarsk, River Angara is blocked by Tatarskaya Rapids nearby the village Tatarka, and Strelk-ovyi Rapids 7 km from the estuary. Strelkovyi Rapids, where the velocity of current reaches 3.8 m/c, still impairs navigation greatly, while earlier it used to be impassable for low-powered ships at all. The cross section of these Rapids is proposed for the construction of the last, terminal hydro-electric power plant on River Angara.
In the estuary of River Angara, at its confluence with River Yenisei, a relatively large settlement and port Strelka, founded in 1637, is located — the last municipality along River Angara. This is one of the few Riverside settlements, where the old-fashioned «two-storey» cottages, hewn from thick larch logs, that combine living quarters, bam, livestock pen, backyard and storage rooms under the same roof, still preserved. The contemporary Strelka is an important timber transshipment facility, from where the timber in rafts or on board barges starts its way to Lesosibirsk, Igarka, and Krasnoyarsk.
At the confluence of the two great rivers, River Angara not only exceeds River Yenisei in volume, but is also twice as wide. It carries its waters in an unhurried, yet powerful manner, and their pressure fights River Yenisei water back, and for a long way downstream the blue-tinted water of River Angara does not mix with the turbid brownish current of River Yenisei.
The cruise of River Angara usually does no end in Strelka, which is disconnected from land roads by River Yenisei, but at the terminal of Shirokii Log on the left bank of River Yenisei across from River Angara estuary. From there, one can go to Krasnoyarsk, Lesosibirsk or Yeniseisk either by bus or by ship along River Yenisei.