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River Guide • Tien-Shan • Naryn
Rivers by Region

Difficulty in September: 4+
From: Ak-Kya - Alt. 1580 m (5180 ft)
To: Toktogul Reservoir - Alt. 880 m (2890 ft)
Distance: 200 km (124 miles)
River Days: 3-5
Average Gradient: 3.5 m/km (18 ft/mile)
Est. Max Gradient: 10-12 m/km (50-60 ft/mile)
Typical Flow in September: Middle stretch: 200-250 cms (7000-9000 cfs)
Downstream: 400-500 cms (14000-18000 cfs)
Best Season: April-May, August-September
First-hand Information: NO

Lower Naryn area map
Lower Naryn area map
Middle Naryn area map
Middle Naryn area map

The Naryn is the major river of the Central Tien-Shan, piercing through most of the Kyrgyzstan from east to west. The Naryn is born where its two sources - the Greater Naryn and the Smaller Naryn - join together (for information about these rivers, see separate descriptions). In fact, it is rather a raft river than a kayak one; and is most often run as a completion of another river trip - usually Greater and Smaller Naryns, Arpa/Alabuga or Kekemeren.

From the confluence the river exits into a huge open woodless basin and is completely flat and meandering for nearly 150 km. There are plenty of people, roads and settlements along the river (including the town of Naryn - administrative center of the area) and the landscapes are far from magnificence - there's really very little reason to paddle this stretch, even if you want to continue down the river after having run Greater or Smaller Naryn.

The valley begins to narrow below the village of Ak-Kya and the Alabuga confluence - the roads and villages go away and the river enters a long deep Akshirak Gorge - there are about a dozen big rapids inside and some impressive canyon sections.

There is another big basin below Akshirak Gorge and then Naryn turns north and enters next long but rather easy gorge lasting all the way to the Kekemeren confluence. There's one more quite difficult Kambaratinsky Gorge below Kekemeren and before the Toktogul.

The Toktogul reservoir is a 30 km long and 15 km wide lake formed by a major powerhouse dam. There used to be another gorge below the dam all the way down to where the Naryn finally emerges the mountains and comes into the Fergana Valley, but a number of hydro power projects have converted this stretch into the series of lakes and dams; nowadays the river essentially ends at Toktogul.

Although sources and tributaries of the Naryn are mostly glacier-fed, their effect on the flow of the lower river is not so strong; in fact the volume only doubles in the summer (while smaller rivers usually rise 4-6 times during the snowmelt season). Adding moderate difficulty and low gradient of the river, the paddling season of the Naryn is quite long - and for a strong group perhaps even June/July is possible.

The water of the Naryn is known as the perfect specimen of a dirty mountain mud - you better camp at the tributaries and take the drinking water from there.

Access & Logistics
The Naryn basin is one of major populated areas of Kyrgyzstan and here one of main country's roads goes from Bishkek via Naryn town to the Torugart Pass on the Chinese border. There are numerous roads around the basin and you can drive down along the river as far as the Alabuga confluence (the nearest villages are Ak-Kya on the right and Ugut on the left, some 10 km before the confluence) - put in as far downstream as you can drive.

The attempts to build a road through the Akshirak Gorge were unsuccessful; the route to the next large basin and the town of Kazarman goes long way around the mountains. There is no road further down the river either.

Another major road from Bishkek to Osh in Fergana Valley crosses the Naryn just before the Toktogul reservoir and it's the obvious take-out place - you can drive back to Bishkek or down along the last gorge of Naryn into the Fergana Valley.

As there are no roads along the river for most of the distance, you should be self-supported on this trip. There are trails in the gorges, but uninhabited sections are lengthy and in case of an emergency it's a long walk along the river to the nearest settlements.

River Description
The river is flat and meandering all the way down to Alabuga confluence from the left; after about 2-3 km the Akshirak Gorge starts with long (3-4 km) class 4+ Semenovsky Rapid, partially created by the road construction attempts along the left bank. There are 3 major drops on this stretch - scout left. Another similar but shorter Gudimovsky Rapid is few kilometers downstream - scout it left too.

There are two class 4+ canyons further down - the "Small Canyon" and the "Great Canyon", which are mostly truly walled corridors with difficult scouting. The Small Canyon is seen after a sharp right bend; there's a bridge over the canyon - scout from the bridge. The Great Canyon is a 7 km long section marked by the remains of a horse bridge over the entrance - scout the entrance from the left walls. Another difficult rapid (The Kyrgyzstan) is located about a kilometer inside the canyon - it is somehow possible to look at the rapid from the right. The rest of the Great Canyon can be generally run from the boat.

There are mostly straightforward class 2-3 rapids for the rest of the Akshirak Gorge; the overall river distance from Alabuga confluence to the exit into the Kazarman basin is about 50 km.

The Kazarman basin is nearly 40 km long and the river is 100% flat; to make paddling nicer, oncoming wind is always there. The Naryn then turns north and another 40 km long but easy class 2-3 gorge, known as the Lonely Gorge lasts all the way down to Kekemeren confluence from the right. The river turns east again and soon the valley opens and the river flattens out for another 30-35 km.

The last difficult class 4+ section, the Kambaratinsky Canyon is marked by the loops of an abandoned road on the right side of the valley and the valley itself obviously narrows. It is possible to scout the entrance into the canyon (some 500-700 m) from the top of the walls on the right, but it is reported as time-consuming and mostly useless exercise. You will have to run most of the section from the boat anyhow, which is at least 4-5 km of difficult whitewater with very few spots that can be scouted. The canyon continues for another 15-16 km, but the river eases to bearable class 3 to 4-.

The river gradually flattens out and exits into an open space before Toktogul; there are remains of thankfully-never-completed Kambaratinsky dam and powerhouse at the end of the gorge. The bridge on the Bishkek - Osh road and the take-out is 4-5 km downstream.

GPS Waypoint

Place North East
Semenovsky Rapid (entrance) 41.408550 74.644640
Gudimovsky Rapid (entrance) 41.411117 74.605917
Small Canyon (entrance) 41.442270 74.529360
Great Canyon (entrance) 41.442510 74.504870
The Kyrgyzstan Rapid (entrance) 41.442510 74.487590
Kekemeren confluence 41.716970 73.876490
Kambaratinsky Canyon (entrance) 41.791059 73.479233
Toktogul bridge and take-out 41.767869 73.295118

Semenovsky Rapid Semenovsky Rapid Gudimovsky Rapid Gudimovsky Rapid
Small Canyon, entrance Small Canyon, entrance from the bridge Small Canyon, view from the bridge Great Canyon, entrance
Inside Great Canyon Inside Great Canyon, The Kyrgyzstan Kazarman basin Lonely Gorge near Kekemeren

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