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River Guide • Tien-Shan • Kekemeren
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in September: 4+ (5)
From: Susamyr - Alt. 2020 m (6630 ft)
To: Naryn Confluence - Alt. 1120 m (3670 ft)
Distance: 125 km (78 miles)
River Days: 3-5 (plus 1-2 days paddling out)
Average Gradient: 7 m/km (35 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 15-20 m/km (75-100 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in September: 70-90 cms (2500-3000 cfs)
Best Season: Late August-September
First-hand Information: YES

Kekemeren area map
Kekemeren area map

The Kekemeren is the biggest right tributary of Naryn, a medium to big volume river with easy access from Bishkek and powerful rapids. The overall gradient is quite low though, so long easy stretches exist and as a whole the river is not that demanding.

The Kekemeren has two sources - Susamyr and Karakol - flowing in the large open Susamyr basin, just one mountain range south of Bishkek. These two sources themselves are rather flat; they join together just few kilometers before the combined river starts rushing through its upper gorge.

Most of the interesting whitewater is concentrated within the first 40-45 km of the river, while it cuts through the mountain range bordering Susamyr basin from the south. The valley opens then for another 40 km, the river eases to flat and numerous settlements appear along the river banks.

The last 40 km before Naryn confluence the river enters its lower gorge - uninhabited valley, remote and beautiful but the rapids here are much easier than in the upper gorge. Many groups decide to take out just after the upper gorge, as the remaining 2/3 of the river contain only 1/10 of the whitewater.

Access & Logistics
The Susamyr basin lies on the way of one of the major Kyrgyzstan's roads, connecting Bishkek and Osh in Fergana Valley. Originating from Bishkek, the road crosses just one pass (Tuz-Ashu Pass) before hitting Susamyr; it then goes across another pass to Toktogul on the lower Naryn and along the Naryn to Fergana Valley.

Another road forks in the Susamyr basin and follows down the Susamyr and then Kekemeren, all the way within the upper gorge and very close to the river itself, making logistics on this stretch quite trivial. Further down this road quits Kekemeren valley near large settlement of Aral and goes east to join another major road, the Bishkek - Naryn road at the town of Kochkorka in the Chu valley. Therefore it makes sense to access Kekemeren via Kochkorka and Aral if you drive from Naryn town or from Issyk-Kul area.

The put-in for Kekemeren is somewhere few kilometers below the Susamyr/Karakol confluence, where the river starts entering the gorge. If you drive up the river, put in as soon as the valley opens and the river flattens out - the spot is quite obvious from both directions.

There are some roads going further down the Kekemeren valley below Aral as far as the lower gorge begins, but then there are no roads or settlements all the way down to Naryn confluence. Moreover, there's nothing at the confluence too, so if you attempt the lower Kekemeren you'll have to continue down the Naryn to the Toktogul reservoir and take-out there (see Naryn description for details). You should also be self-sufficient on this stretch of the river.

If you only go for the upper gorge, take-out few kilometers upstream of Aral. This section has road very close to the river so there's nothing about self-support here.

River Description

Susamyr to Aral, 45 km (28 miles) – 1-2 days
From the Susamyr/Karakol confluence the Kekemeren is flat for 2-3 km; then some gurgles appear and just as the river enters the gorge, first long class 4 rapid (The Breach) comes - in fact you can still observe open valley upstream. Few hundred meters below another short class 4 rapid (The Drop) presents a river-wide drop (as the name suggests) - scout left. About a kilometer a continuous class 3+ to 4- sections brings you to the bridge and the road crosses from left to right.

Another class 4 rapid (The Bridge, those who named Kekemeren rapids haven't been very imaginative either) starts just under the bridge - scout right. Yet another class 4 follows few hundred meters below along the left cliff - The Dinosaur, apparently named after some strangely shaped rocks in the river - scout right.

Be careful, long and powerful class 5 rapid (The Stairway) comes very soon - it's indeed a stair of various drops nicely scattered over some 500 m distance - first half is better looked at from the left bank (but the rest of it - from the right bank and the ferry glide may be not possible). Scouting along the road on the right is easy but gives wrong idea about the size of river features. The whole section from the Breach to the Stairway is 4-5 km long.

The river continues as class 4- for about a kilometer below the Stairway and then eases to class 2-3 for about 5-6 km. Next class 4+ rapid (The Whale) appears where the valley narrows again and a small wood can be seen of a right bank terrace - scout right from the road.

Below the Whale river eases again, the valley opens and there's nothing for the next 15-17 km. A small village of Kyzyloy can be seen on the right bank.

Soon after Kyzyloy the valley turns left and enters second part of the upper gorge. It starts with a 1-2 km long class 4/4+ powerful but quite straightforward section called Kashkasu (by the name of a right tributary) - scout it as required while you go down the river. 1-1.5 km below another class 4/4+ rapid (Tura-Goin I) is marked by the Tura-Goin creek from the right and by a big statue of a wild goat ("Tur") on the roadside - scout right.

The last rapid of the upper gorge is the over a kilometer long class 5 (Tura-Goin II) just around the corner - scout right from the road (walking along the river bank is possible in parts). This rapid used to be named the Double Tomb - there's a small two people graveyard on the roadside in the middle of the rapid (thankfully they seem to be unlucky drivers, not the river runners).

The river continues as a straightforward class 3 to 4- for next 2-3 km and then gradually flattens out and exits the gorge. If you do not go for the lower river, take out here - the Aral village is few kilometers downstream.

Aral to Naryn, 80 km (50 miles) – 2-3 days
From Aral the river is completely flat and meandering for nearly 40 km. There are numerous villages, bridges and roads on both banks.

Finally the valley narrows and the Kekemeren enters its final gorge lasting all the way down to Naryn confluence, about 35-40 km. The gorge is quite spectacular, sometimes canyon-like, but easy comparing to the upper river - there are only two or three rapids that can be graded 4/4-; the rest of it is straightforward class 3 run.

As you enter the Naryn, continue down and take out at Toktogul reservoir (see Naryn description for details).

GPS Waypoint

Place North East
The Breach (entrance) 42.098820 74.115200
The Drop (entrance) 42.091430 74.127290
The Bridge (road bridge itself) 42.088000 74.134910
The Dinosaur (entrance) 42.083820 74.137550
The Stairway (entrance) 42.078170 74.137010
The Whale (entrance) 42.031370 74.163040
Kashkasu (entrance) 41.923310 74.178580
Tura-Goin I (entrance) 41.917040 74.221740
Tura-Goin II (entrance) 41.918350 74.227790

The Breach The Drop The Bridge The Dinosaur
The Stairway, upper half The Stairway, exit The Whale Kashkasu section
Tura-Goin I Tura-Goin II Tura-Goin II Kekemeren valley near Aral

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