Back to category Published: 30 march 2023 Author: Zhanna Mukhatzhanova

Kapchagai Reservoir


Artificial reservoir turned major resort

The Kapchagai Reservoir, situated in Kazakhstan, is an extensive artificial water body and one of the largest in the region. Spanning a length of 180 km (112 mi) and a width of 22 km (14 mi), with an average depth of 15 m (49 ft), it was constructed over a period of 15 years between 1965 and 1980, along with the building of the dam and the Kapchagai hydroelectric power station. The Ili River is the main source of water for the reservoir, while several other rivers like Turgen, Kaskelen, Chilik, Talgar, and Issyk also contribute to its basin.

Kapchagay is a highly sought-after destination for beach lovers from Almaty, as the water temperature during the swimming season (20-28⁰C) is comfortable and fishing opportunities abound, with a variety of fish species like bream, carp, perch, asp, catfish, etc. Boat and banana rentals are also available, and wakeboarding enthusiasts can try their skills on the local waves. The beaches are mostly sandy and pebbly, flat, and wide, and many boarding houses, recreation centers, and hotels line the coast, especially in the northern and southwestern areas of the reservoir. Although the best time to swim is from July to August, most visitors come between May and September. The water is fresh but somewhat murky and freezes in winter.

Regarding the amenities available on the beaches, visitors can choose between paid beaches, which offer conveniences like sun loungers and umbrellas, and free sites, where they need to bring their own food and drinks. There are numerous recreational areas along the coast, providing ample opportunities for a pleasant outing.

The west coast of the reservoir is home to the city of Konayev (previously known as Kapshagay), which is one of the fastest-growing cities in the Almaty region.

Shrouded in supernatural mystery

Despite its undeniable beauty, some find the Kapchagai Reservoir eerie and even creepy due to the numerous myths and legends surrounding it. These stories are so deeply ingrained in local folklore that it can be challenging to separate fact from fiction.

One such tale is about floating coffins that allegedly appear on the reservoir. It is said that the site was once a cemetery before it was flooded to create the reservoir, and that some of the coffins were not properly removed. However, the truth is that the old settlement of Iliysk, which existed in the 19th century, was indeed submerged when the reservoir was constructed. While some graves were relocated, others were covered with concrete. Unfortunately, this has given rise to unfounded rumors about floating coffins.

Another popular myth concerns the whirlpools that supposedly drag swimmers to the bottom of the reservoir. In reality, the fault lies with the people themselves, rather than any supernatural force. People often ignore the advice of lifeguards, swim beyond the designated areas, leave children unattended, or swim while under the influence of alcohol. Underwater waves and bottomless holes in the reservoir can also cause swimmers to lose control and drown. Waves on the surface can be equally dangerous, particularly when lifeguards warn against swimming in them.

A few years ago, an unusual creature with multiple limbs was captured in Kapchagai, causing a sensation in the community. Its mouth and eyes were situated on one side of its body, leading to numerous theories about its identity. Although several hypotheses have been proposed, experts believe that it is most likely a trilobite, an extinct species of Paleozoic marine arthropod.

Another enigmatic resident of Kapchagai is the so-called «cannibal catfish». While catfish are large fish, there have been no reports of them consuming humans in Kazakhstan, so visitors can relax and enjoy their vacation. It is true that remains of people have been found in catfish caught in Kapchagai, but these were the remains of long-deceased individuals resting at the bottom.

Even the Almaty-Kapchagai highway has not escaped mystical stories, with rumors of three ghosts (two adults and a child) residing there. A few years ago, grainy footage purportedly captured them on a phone camera, causing a stir online. The blurry silhouettes were initially thought to be the spirits of car accident victims. However, with the release of higher-quality footage, the ghosts turned out to be... trees.

How to get there?

If you're looking to visit Kapchagai, there are a few different routes you can take depending on which coast you want to go to. The most popular coast is the west coast, located in the Konayev area, which is where most of the resorts are located. To get there from Almaty, you can take the A-3 highway, and the journey should take you around 1.5 hours.

If you're interested in visiting the north coast, you can also take the A-3 highway and then turn onto one of the roads that will take you there.

To reach the southern coast, you'll need to turn off the A-3 highway onto the Iliysky tract. This will take you to the southern part of the reservoir, where you can enjoy its scenic views and take part in various water activities.

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