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The ridge Kopetdag.

Tours in Mountains Kopetdag.

"Before a look of the observer examining Kopet Dagh from any dominating top the extensive equal or wavy space going far to borders of Iran is spread. Here, above, the impression about the highland, about deep almost impassable gorges Advanced and other ridges almost absolutely disappears"

E. M. Velikovskaya. "Geography questions", 1947.

Travel in Mountains Kopetdag.

Kopetdag is a regional zone of the Turkmen Khorasan Mountains, forming the northern border of the Iranian Highlands. Within the Turkmen territory, Kopetdag is located on its northern edge, narrow in the east and expanding to the west.
The relatively low, but steep and rocky mountains on the north side of the Kopetdag Mountains constitute a sharp contrast to the Karakum plain stretching to the north. Kopetdag devoid of eternal snow and glaciers. Therefore, the valleys in the mountains are shallow and the mountains are deserted.
There are no mountain glacier landforms here either. The highest peak in the Turkmen part of Kopetdag is Mount Rize, which is 2,942 meters above sea level, located south-west of Ashgabat.
Relief and geological structure of the Kopetdag ridge.
Kopetdag is not a single ridge, but a system of frontier ridges and mountain elevations. In the region of Bakharden - Ashkhabad, the mountains have the appearance of a relatively monolithic border ridge; eastern to the Turkmen territory there are only foothills and certain sections of the forward chains, and in the Turkmen part of the Western Kopetdag the space with a complex dissected mountainous relief reaches a width of 110 km.
Here, from the east-southeast to the west-north-west, numerous short ridges stretch. In the westernmost region, they change their direction to the latitudinal and then to the south-west, and only the clearly distinguished Front Chain (or Front Range) retains the main west-north-west strike almost until its end.
These rocky ridges correspond to anticlines, which are often upturned to the north and complicated by stuffing, which makes them a sharply asymmetrical profile. While the southern slopes are gently sloping, the northern slopes are almost sheer precipices cut by short deep gorges.
In the western low-mountain extremity of Kopetdag, the ravine dismemberment is large and the relief becomes a badland. The ridges of the western part of the Kopetdag are grouped into rows of the main mountain ranges, separated by longitudinal valleys several kilometers wide (Khodzhakalinskaya, Sumbarskaya, Chandyrskaya), into which narrow transverse valleys open.
Both the northern Advanced Chain of the Western Kopetdag and the more southern chains have heights mainly in the range of 1000 - 2000 m. A characteristic common feature of the Kopetdag ridges is the flat shape of their peaks.
“Before the gaze of the observer, inspecting the Kopetdag from any dominant summit, a vast flat or slightly wavy space spreads out, extending far into Iran. Here, upstairs, the impression of a mountainous country, of deep, almost impassable gorges of the species composition and other ridges, almost completely disappears. ”
In front of the steep, often impregnable northern slopes of the Forward Chain, towering 500 – 1500 m above the piedmont plain, there is a strip of foothills. The foothills accompany the main chain to the east of Ashgabat.
Most often they are formed by hills of 100 - 300 m relative height, with gentle peaks and heavily dissected slopes. The foothills are composed of Paleogene and Neogene sediments, which are relatively easy to wash out.
Chains of ridges are formed mainly by dense lower Cretaceous rocks (limestone, sandstone, partly marl, siltstone and clay). The slopes of the ridges are often armored with hard-washed sandstones. Upper Cretaceous sediments occupy smaller spaces and are developed mainly in the western part of the Kopetdag.
They are predominantly clayey marly composition. In the areas of the Upper Cretaceous and Paleogene sediments, the relief often becomes a badland. In Kopetdag there is a clear connection between the relief forms and the tectonic structure.
The longitudinal valleys of the Western Kopetdag mainly correspond to the axes of the synclinal structures, and the chains of ridges correspond to the systems of anticlinal uplifts. Due to local diving and raising of the hinges of large folded structures, the latter were divided into a number of second-order folds.
The main ridges are anticlinal or anticlinal folds, less often - their wings. The folded structure of the Kopetdag is complicated by a large elevation in the zone of its northern Forward Ridge and a number of other faults. All structural elements are combined in the Kopetdag mega-anticlinorium.
Kopetdag belongs to the Alpine geosynclinal region. In place of the mountains, a geosyncline was located, in which powerful strata of Jurassic and especially Cretaceous sediments accumulated during the Mesozoic.
The geosynclinal regime with deposition of marine sediments continued in the Paleogene. On the verge of the Paleogene and Neogene occurred uplifts. Neogene is characterized by the further development of tectonic movements and uplifts, the erosion of the growing elevations and accumulation of continental sediments, and marine transgressions in the western part of the Kopetdag.
The formation of relief with the leading value of tectonic movements and erosion accumulative processes developing on their background occurred during the entire Neogene and the Quaternary period. The creation of the mountain relief began in the lower half of the Neogene.
Arising mountain ranges at first strongly inferior in height to the modern ones. The epochs of intensive uplifts were replaced by epochs of relative subsidence and general slowing down of tectonic movements, during which the alignment surfaces were formed.
I. A. Rezanov notes three tiers of such surfaces: the topmost one is of Miocene age, the middle one is Pliocene and the bottom one is early Quaternary. The current appearance of the Kopetdag was obtained as a result of Quaternary tectonic uplifts and the erosion division that accompanied it.
In the Quaternary, the formation of folded structures continued. The active tectonic life of the Kopetdag is still ongoing. The development of anticlinal structures continues in the foothill zone as a result of movements along the deep faults in the surface strata.
The seismicity of the region is associated with these advances. The epicenter of the devastating Ashgabat earthquake of 1948 was located 25 km south-east of Ashgabat, in the area of ​​the Khalits hill, where the strength of the earthquake reached 10 points.
Ashgabat was almost completely destroyed. From horizontal shocks, the walls of small houses, made of mud brick, fastened with a clay mortar, scattered onto the pile of brick and the roof collapsed. Single large buildings, built according to modern rules of anti-seismic construction, were almost not damaged (textile factory, power plant, etc.).
Climate and waters of Kopetdag.
The air in Kopetdag is very dry in summer due to the drying out influence of the neighboring deserts of Central Asia and Iran. Compared with desert plains, summer in the mountains is cooler, frost-free and vegetative periods are shorter.
The amount of precipitation is slightly more than in the neighboring deserts (to the south of Ashgabat at an altitude of about 1500 m - 217 mm per year, in some areas of the Kopetdag - up to 350 mm). Their maximum is observed not in March - April, as in deserts, but in May.
Lower Cretaceous limestones serve as a reservoir for fissure water that feeds sources with fairly warm water, associated with the longitudinal zone of discontinuities on the northern slope of the Forward Chain. The same groundwater is brought to the surface for irrigation with the help of a complex system of canals - underground galleries with clearing wells opening to the surface.
Through the canals, water flows by gravity to the oases. The canal system is now in a neglected state, since groundwater is used more efficiently with the help of artesian wells. The thermal springs are connected with the longitudinal rupture zone in the north of Kopetdag, as well as the underground lake Kou with warm hydrogen sulfide water, located in an extensive karst cave near the village of Bakharden.
The altitudinal zonality of the Kopetdag landscapes due to the absence of a mountain forest zone is less pronounced than in many other mountains.
Piedmont plains and low foothills (up to 350 m of altitude) are occupied by desert landscapes. The soil cover on contact with takyrs on the plains is marked by the belt of takyr of gray lands, but mostly in the desert high-altitude zone there are developed light gray lands of different mechanical composition, from dust loamy on loesslike deposits to loamy gravelly on pro-aluvial plumes and outcrops of hard bedrocks. There are salt marshes.
The fauna of Kopetdag.
Many inhabitants of desert piedmont plains penetrate the desert and semi-desert foothills of the Kopetdag. Characteristic are Persian gerbil (Meriones persicum), hamster (Calomyscus bailwardi), and reddish pika (Ochotona rufescens), which are not found on the desert plains.
Among the predators are the manul cat (Otocolobus manul), the hyena, the Indian honey badger (Mellivora indica). Reptiles are characterized by a snake arrow and a very poisonous desert viper of gyurza (Vipera lebetina).
In the mountain steppes of Kopetdag, there are Afghan mole-darling, Trans-Caspian vole, gray hamster, gyurza, porcupine (Hystrix hirsutirostris) and Kopetdag mountain ram (Ovis orientalis cycloceros). Wild boar, leopard (Felis pardus), forest dormouse (Dryomys nitedula bilkjewiczi) live in woody shrub thickets, green woodpecker (Picus viridis carelini) and blackbird (Turdus merula) nest.
In the shaded damp places, in the bush thickets in the river valleys and in the rocks near the mountain sources, there is a cobra (spectacle snake - Naja naja oxiana), the bite of which is lethal to humans. In this high-altitude zone there are also wild boars, occasionally leopards, in addition, the tolai hare (Lepus tolai) and the reddish pika.
In summer, the mountain sheep, which is cool in the shade of trees, is not uncommon. Common birds include common pigeon (Columba palumbus) and juniper (Mycerobas carnipes). On large trees, the juniper arranges nests of a black vulture (Aegypius monachus). A bezoar goat (Capra aegagrus turcmenica) is found on steep cliffs and steep cliffs near the tops of mountain ridges.
Snow voles (Microtus nivalis) and Caspian snow mountain (Tetraogallus caspius) inhabit the highest parts of the mountains.
The vegetation cover of the desert high-altitude zone is dominated by ephemeral sedge bluegrass communities with a predominance of thick sedge, viviparous bluegrass and with characteristic representatives of large grasses, above changing by ephemeral wormwood, with Artemisia badghysi, A. sieberi, etc.) communities.
In the zone of high foothills and partly lowlands (350 - 500 m) semi-desert landscapes (desert steppe). The light gray lands here are replaced by ordinary ones, which are complex with dark, occupying the highest parts of lowlands and shaded slopes.
The vegetation of ephemeral wormwood semi-desert is common on ordinary gray lands, and subtropical steppes dominated by wheatgrass (Agropyron trichophorum) are developed on dark gray lands. Many inhabitants of desert piedmont plains penetrate the desert and semi-desert foothills of the Kopetdag.
Characteristic are Persian gerbil (Meriones persicum), hamster (Calomyscus bailwardi), and reddish pika (Ochotona rufescens), which are not found on the desert plains. Among the predators are the manul cat (Otocolobus manul), the hyena, the Indian honey badger (Mellivora indica).
Reptiles are characterized by a snake arrow and a very poisonous desert viper of gyurza (Vipera lebetina). The high mountains of Kopetdag correspond to the high-altitude zone of large cereal subtropical mountain steppes (500 - 1150 m). The mountain slopes cut by gorges have brown soils.
The flora of Kopetdag.
Wheatgrass communities (from Agropyron trichophorum) dominate in subtropical mountain steppes and soils, and on gravelly soils (from Andropogon ischaemum). In this zone, mainly on the slopes of deep gorges, deciduous trees are growing - Turkmen maple (Acer turcomanicum), (Celtis caucasica) and shrubs (almond, honeysuckle, dogrose).
Along with them grows Turkmen (Juniperus turcomanica). Pistachios are also found in the forest valleys, and walnut forests (Juglans regia) are found in the Western Kopetdag. On the bottoms of the gorges of the southwestern Kopetdag along the streams and at the springs develop dense shrubs with wild grapes and fruit trees - fig (Ficus carica), (Mespilus germanica), Turkmen apple (Malus turcomanica), pear (Pyrus boissieriana).
In the gorges of the southwestern Kopetdag there are also platan (Platanus orientalis) (Punica granatum), yellow jasmine (Jasminum fruticans), (Paliurus spina-christi). Many of these plants are characteristic of the Iran-Mediterranean region and the Caucasus.
The main natural resources of Kopetdag are summer (in the upper parts of the mountains) and spring (in the lower zones) pastures. The fruits of wild fruit trees and shrubs growing in the gorges of the southwestern Kopetdag are used by the local population.
The main agricultural oases of Turkmenistan are located on the piedmont plains and in the longitudinal valleys. Oases of the foothill plains now receive water from the Karakum Canal. Protected from the northern winds by ridges and hills, the valleys of the south-western Kopetdag are areas of subtropical agriculture.
Its expansion will be facilitated by the left branch of the Karakum Canal. The cultivation of olives is considered promising; dates, pomegranates, lemons will also be cultivated.

Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.Kopetdag ridge and environs.

N. A. Gvozdetsky, N. I. Mikhaylov. "Physical geography of the USSR. Asian part. The edition third corrected and added. Moscow "Thought" of 1978.

Photos by
Alexander Petrov.