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River Guide • Altai • Kucherla
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in August: 5
From: Kucherla Lake – Alt. 1780 m (5840 ft)
To: Katun Confluence - Alt. 850 m (2790 ft)
Distance: 40 km (25 miles)
River Days: 2-4 (plus 2-3 days trekking in)
Average Gradient: 25 m/km (125 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 60-100 m/km (300-500 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in August: 30-40 cms (900-1400 cfs)
Best Season: August
First-hand Information: NO

Kucherla area map
Kucherla area map

The Kucherla is one of three relatively short rivers that flow straight north from the Katun Range, meeting Katun where it passes eastwards along the range.

The river starts from snow and glacier fields in high valleys just east of Mt. Belukha. Few kilometers below, where these streams join and deserve to be a river, it passes through an incredibly beautiful, 5-km long Kucherla Lake, one of major attractions in the Belukha region.

As it exits the lake, a heavy and long class 5 section, comes, followed by another difficult but short canyon few kilometers downstream. The river then easies for a while before hitting final class 5 gorge close to Katun confluence.

The river has prevalent snow- and glacier- component, and is not recommended for run in July as the water is too high then. But thanks to the lake buffering its drainage, the Kucherla hardly have water fluctuations from morning to evening.

Access & Logistics
The only way to get to the river is hiking up the valley, all the way from Katun confluence. The start point for the trek is the village of Tiungur, located on the left shore of the Katun (just opposite Kucherla mouth) and connected by a road via Ust-Koksa to Gorno-Altaisk, administrative center of the area.

There is a light road bridge across the Katun in Tiungur. A rough road goes up the right bank of Kucherla for some 10 km, reaching the bottom of the final gorge. It then turns out into a major trekking trail, where several groups go on feet or on horses towards the lake every day.

You can drive a 4x4 car or truck up this road until it finishes, but then there’s nowhere to find the horses, so you will have to carry all the gear yourself. The horses can be quite easily found in Tiungur, but people reported difficulties to agree to put boats on them.

Overall trek distance is about 30-35 km (18-22 miles) from the road head to the lake; trail is good and easy, and can be done in two days with the horses.

Take-out is possible at the Katun confluence and Tiungur village; or you can proceed down the Katun river (see Katun description for details).

There are no settlements in Kucherla valley and you should be self-sufficient on this trip. Still, being so busy with trekkers, there may be some supplies available at Kucherla Lake.

River Description
Few hundred meters below Kucherla Lake the river passes through another, but small lake, just 500 m in size. Immediately at the exit of this one, first class 5 section, The Breach, starts. It is about 2 km long, extremely steep and definitely requires total scouting and possibly some portages.

Some 3-4 km of easy water lead into so-called First Canyon, a narrow crack 250 m long. There are substantial rapids in the canyon, but no way to scout anything from inside; scout entire section from the top of the walls.

About 15 km or so the river in mainly class 4 with some easier sections; there is another short canyon-like stretch (called the Second Canyon) within a kilometer after the First Canyon.

Soon after a big left tributary, Kulagash, the river enters its Third Canyon, another class 5 section. This one is long, some 8-9 km, but is rather a steep gorge with just one narrow wall-sided section at the beginning (nearly impossible to scout though, The Darkness is the right name for it).

The gorge ends where an old (nearly destroyed) road bridge crosses the river; from here the valley opens and there are many islands in the riverbed. The flow is fast and powerful though, and you should beware of trees, especially in smaller channels. The river gradually eases within these last 10 km down to Katun confluence.

Kucherla Lake Upper Kucherla valley The First Canyon Lower Kucherla

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