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Balkhash Lake.

Trip from Almaty to Balkhash lake.

“As soon as man seeks to penetrate the secrets of nature - in which nothing is secret and it is but a question of seeing - he realizes that the simple produces the supernatural” 

Honore de Balzac.

Trip to Balkhash Lake.

Southeast of Karaganda, at the junction of the Karaganda and the Almaty oblasts, is Lake Balkhash. It is one of the largest lakes in the world (about 18 thousand square kilometers). The uniqueness of Balkhash is that the half of the lake is fresh and another half is salty (the salty eastern and the fresh western parts are divided by a narrow strait Uzyn-Aral).
The depth of Balkhash does not exceed 26 meters, and its length is more than 600 kilometers.
Balkhash is the third lake in Kazakhstan by the territory after the Caspian and Aral Seas. It is located in the south-east of the country in Balkhash-Alakol Depression (342 m above sea level).
The area of the lake is 18.2 thousand km2, the length is 614 km, the largest width is 74 km, the length of the bank line is 2383 km. Water volume is 106 km3. Balkhash is divided into two parts: western and eastern.
The depth of the western part is 6-12 m, the depth of the eastern part is around 15-26 m. The lake is cut by multiple peninsulas and bays. The largest islands are Basaral and Tasaral. Besides Ili, Balkhash has such tributaries as Karatal, Aksu, Lepsy, Ayaguz, Bakanas and other rivers.
Significant amount of water (675) in the lake is brought from Ili River. The phenomenon of Balkhash is in different mineralization of its western and eastern parts connected by the narrow belt.
The western basin that receives water from Ili River is fresh water and the eastern part is saline water. The nature of Balkhash is amazing and full of contrasts. There are more than 20 species of fish in Balkhash including six local species that are there from the ancient times (Ili blue-head, Balkhash blue-head, Balkhash perch and others), the rest were brought from other water reservoirs (barbel, barbel sturgeon, pike perch).
Commercial fish is sazan, pike perch, Balkhash perch and others.  Balkhash marinka and Balkhash perch are in the International Red Book. In the reeds of southern Balkhash Region and in riparian woodlands along the riverbanks there are thousands of species of birds including around 20 species from the Red Book of Kazakhstan.
There many boars, musk-rats and saiga antelopes. Many years ago in the reed bushes of the southern Balkhash region there was Turan tiger, the last specimens of which were shot in the thirties.
Balkhash is main Lake located in the Balkhash-Alakol Basin. It is the third largest lake in Kazakhstan: with an area of 18.2 thousand sq. m., length of 614 km and width of 30 km. It is a unique lake, the eastern part of which is salty, and the western is fresh.
The Karatal, Ile and other rivers flow into the lake. The Balkhash-Alakol Basin is a shallow self-contained basin at a height of 342 - 600 m. The greater part is occupied by the Lake Balkhash.
The Sasykkol and Alakol Lakes are located in the East; the Taukum, Moiynkum, Saryesik-Atyrau sandy deserts are in the South, Pre-Balkhash nature is wonderful andfull of contrasts. The Ile-Balkhash lakes are one of the most significance, because of the variety of flora and fauna.
Sazans, white amurs, barbels, trouts, marinkas, zherikhs, bream, catfish and others are included part of the ichthyo-fauna. The lake is having a hard time at present. The mining-metallurgical industrial complex, situated in the town of Balkhash, deposits poisonous waste products into the lake, and the wind spreads the cinder from industrial chimneys which accumulates on its surface and the bordering territories for some ten kilometers away from the complex.
As a result, although there are three beaches in the town, it is recommended not to try and catch a tan or to bathe here, nor to drink water from the lake (especially in the areas bordering upon the town). 
However, the situation is not so bad. It is generally agreed, however, that opportunities for rest and relaxation are possible further from the town of Balkhash and its metallurgical giant, and despite these negative aspects, the lake is one of the most popular vacation spots in Central Kazakhstan.
One can lie in the sun and bathe there (which is the most popular among the holiday-makers), or fish, yacht and investigate some islands. The bathing season in Balkhash begins in June and lasts until early September.
The temperature of the water during this period is 25-30°C. There are many wonderful beaches along the rocky lakeside, and those situated at a distance from the industrial complex enjoy great popularity.
Such a place is the Shubartubek village situated 25 km from the town of Balkhash. There are also some popular islands that can take a pride in more virginal nature. Thus, the Tasaral Island, situated southwest of the town of Balkhash, is considered one of the most beautiful and fetching nooks on the lake.
Tourists visit the Uzyn-Aral Island as well. It is situated on the border between the salty and fresh parts of Balkhash and is very popular place for diving and fishing. On the whole, fishing is one of the most popular reasons for people to holiday in Balkhash.
The lake is inhabited by sazan (Cyprinus carpio), perch (Perca fluviatilis), bream (Abramis brama), zander(Stizostedion), marinka (Schizothorax), cat-fish (Silurus glanis), zherekh (Aspius aspius), vobla(Rutilus rutilus caspicus), and the Volga zander (Stizostedion volgensis).
They say that the sturgeon (Acipenser) also lives there, but in the opposite part of the lake (the Almaty part). Fishing is not over even in winter (from late November until April the lake usually freezes, and ice-fishing begins).
There is a question about the quality of the fish in the lake due to the levels of pollution.  Also, there are areas where it is forbidden to fish, so it is necessary to pay special attention to warnings and notices.
To the north of the lake stretches a vast desert area which, at first sight, can seem to be of no interest. In fact, Northern Pribalkhashye possesses both natural sights, (such as the granite massif Bektau-Ata, the Shunak meteorite crater and the Turanga-groves), and the industrial places of interest striking the imagination by their scale.
The most famous among the latter are the Kounrad and East-Kounrad open-cast mines.

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Authority:
"Zhetysu is the Land of  tourism”. A Tourist Guide-book. Almaty.  2003. 68 p. and the material for this page is taken from the printed edition. Vitaliy Shuptar. http://www.discovery-central-asia.com "Avalon Kazakhstan  Book". www.kazakhstan-online.net