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River Guide • Altai • Kuragan
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in August: 4 (5)
From: Khazinikhsky Canyon – Alt. 1600 m (5250 ft)
To: Katun Confluence - Alt. 900 m (2950 ft)
Distance: 45 km (28 miles)
River Days: 2-4 (plus 2-3 days trekking in)
Average Gradient: 15 m/km (75 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 30-40 m/km (150-200 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in August: 25-40 cms (900-1400 cfs)
Best Season: July-August
First-hand Information: NO

Kuragan area map
Kuragan area map

Summary
The Kuragan 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 valley, and for its whole length flows in a narrow gorge, creating several wall-squeezed canyons. The upper part of the river actually bears the name Ioldo, and it’s here at least two class 5 canyons are located.

After meeting a big left tributary, Kara-Airy (also known as Osinovka), the river gets easier, and from here down it is mostly class 4/4+. This is the place to start if you do not want to venture into class 5 canyons.

The river has noticeable snow- and glacier- component, but not as much as neighboring Kucherla, and most of it is usually gone by early August. But if you come in July, expect high water on this river.

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 Katanda, located on the left shore of the Katun (just opposite Kuragan mouth) and connected by a road via Ust-Koksa to Gorno-Altaisk, administrative center of the area.

There are two ferry services across the Katun in Katanda (but no bridges) – one above and one below the Kuragan confluence; you need the first one or you end up on the wrong side of Kuragan. The very rough road goes up the left bank of Kuragan for some 10-12 km, gradually turning into a horse trail. This trail goes all the way up the valley and then crosses over the pass to upper Katun river south of the range.

You can drive a 4x4 car or truck up this road (the ferry takes vehicles too) 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 Katanda, but people reported difficulties to agree to put boats on them.

Overall trek distance is about 25-30 km (15-18 miles) from the road head to Kara-Airy confluence. This is the put-in point for those who are not going for upper canyons above Kara-Airy; otherwise it’s another 8-10 km higher up, the put-in is 2 km beyond next significant left tributary, Khazinikha. Sure, there’re no road signs telling what tributary is what, so you either should have a good map and good orienteering skills or seek local advice.

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

The upper part of the valley (presumably above Kara-Airy) belongs to the Altai Nature Reserve and in theory you need a permit to enter. Several groups reported that some local hunters and fishermen used to pretend being foresters and insisted on the baksheesh; so if you want to avoid any discussions, visit Reserve’s office in Ust-Koksa and find out where the boundary actually starts and obtain the permit if necessary (about $1-2 per person per day).

There are no settlements in Kuragan valley and you should be self-sufficient on this trip.

River Description

Khazinikhsky Canyon to Kara-Airy, 7 km (4.5 miles) – 1-2 days
From the put-in point, which is about 1.5-2 km above Khazinikha confluence, the river enters so-called Khazinikhsky Canyon, a steep gorge with few places where you can access the river from the trail (that’s common for all canyons on this stretch). The first half of it is said to be more difficult. The Canyon ends just at the confluence with Khazinikha.

Some 500-700 after, another canyon, called "Zero" Canyon, begins (freaky name because it was discovered after downstream canyons had been run and named First and Second accordingly). The Zero Canyon has almost no access to the river for its whole 1.2 km, and is one of the most serious sections of the whole Kuragan; the most difficult are the entrance rapid and the final part of it.

About 1 km below, First and Second Canyons follow; the First canyon is actually short (400m only) and easy – there’re no substantial rapids inside. The Second Canyon, 600 m long, comes in just 100 m after and along with the Zero Canyon is the climax of the river.

Kara-Airy comes from the left immediately after the Second Canyon.

Kara-Airy to Katun confluence, 38 km (24 miles) – 1-2 days
First 2-3 km below Kara-Airy is known as Third Canyon, but it is rather steep gorge, there’s no problem walking along the shore next to the river. A difficult rapid is located at the end of the gorge.

The valley then opens a bit and the river eases; from here down it mostly contains several isolated rapids, separated by more or less easy stretches. Last 5-7 km before Katun the river meanders in an open valley, creating many shallow channels.

Khazinikhsky Canyon Khazinikhsky Canyon Zero Canyon Zero Canyon
Second Canyon Second Canyon Second Canyon Exit from Second Canyon
Lower stretches of Kuragan Lower stretches of Kuragan Lower stretches of Kuragan Lower stretches of Kuragan

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