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Front page » Information on excursion » Sary Chelek Lake

Sary Chelek Lake

Some 500 km from Bishkek and 300 km from Osh is The Sary Chelek biosphere reserve, which lies in the Arkit Gorge, a relatively small mountain hollow in the Chatkal Mountains . It was founded in 1959 to protect and research the pristine natural landscapes – lowland steppes and ridges with snow-capped peaks; rapid rivers and mountain lakes; blossoming valleys and alpine meadows (lying between 1200 m and 4274m) – with their varied flora and fauna. More than 1000 species of plants, 160 species of birds and 34 species of mammals (such as deer, bear, lynx, wolves, foxes, badgers, porcupine and even snow leopards) can be found in this relatively small, unspoiled national park. It is also supposed to be a marvelous place for those interested in insects of all kinds.
The lake itself is situated some 1873 meters above sea level, it stretches for some 7.5 kilometers, varying in width from 350 m . to 1500 m . and it at its deepest point reaches a depth of 234 m – it is the second deepest lake in Kyrgyzstan . The shoreline is deeply indented and lined by steep forested slopes – which descend into the depths of the lake. Shallow areas have developed only in the larger of the bays.
The water level rises with the seasons – varying by about 65 cm. It is fed by the Sary Chelek River , many numerous streams, and underground thermal streams. The outflow is via the TusKaul River .

There is some dispute about how it was formed – some scholars think it resulted from the collapse of two ridges of mountains which blocked the river and held back the waters and others as a result of a shift along a fault line some 2000 years ago. The waters often appear a greenish shade of blue – and make attractive photographs.

The name “Sary Chelek” means “Yellow Bucket”. There is a legend that a bee keeper attending his hives somewhere on the lake shore, was pouring honey into a bucket and was so taken by the color of the honey that he decided to call the lake “Yellow Bucket”. There are people who think that the lake derives its name from the fact that in the autumn, when all the leaves of the trees turn color, the whole basin reminds the visitor of a “Yellow bucket”.

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