|Difficulty in September:||4+ (5)|
|From:||Karakol - Alt. 3000 m (9840 ft)|
|To:||Sm. Naryn confluence - Alt. 2250 m (7380 ft)|
|Distance:||120 km (75 miles)|
|Average Gradient:||6 m/km (30 ft/mile)|
|Est. Max Gradient:||15-20 m/km (75-100 ft/mile)|
|Typical Flow in September:||60-90 cms (2000-3000 cfs)|
|Best Season:||Late August-September|
The Greater Naryn is the left source of the mighty Naryn - the major river of the Central Tien-Shan. As the name suggests, it brings about 2/3 of the volume at the confluence with the other source, the Smaller Naryn.
The river sources from a remote high-altitude basin (Taragai basin) located pretty much in the middle of nowhere between Issyk-Kul Lake and the Chinese border. For the whole length Greater Naryn flows almost straight west all the way until Smaller Naryn confluence.
Until the river leaves the basin, it is more a river of the plains than that of the mountains. After the Karakol, a significant left tributary and a settlement of the same name, the valley begins to narrow and first rapids appear. More interesting section starts where another left tributary, Ulan, comes in; from here the Greater Naryn valley remains quite narrow all the way down. Still, there's a large amount of flat between rapids and gorges.
The most remarkable part of the river, known as the Naryn Falls Canyon, comes just before the confluence and many groups choose to go only for this section - a nice one-day class 4 to 5 run inside a very impressive canyon with much easier access than the upper river.
Despite the Greater Naryn has significant glacier component, morning-evening water fluctuations hardly exist due to its length.
Bear in mind that upper valley lies above 3000 m and going there straight from Bishkek you may experience symptoms of mountain sickness. There is no firewood all the way down to Karakol confluence - actually the Taragai Basin looks more like a desert than a mountain plateau.
Access & Logistics
The only sensible road to the Taragai basin and the upper stretches of the Greater Naryn goes from southern shore of Issyk-Kul Lake up the Barskoon River and then crosses two passes (one above 4000 m); while the road along the Barskoon is good enough, beyond the first pass it is very bad and rough.
The road actually goes to a small settlement of Karasai and crosses the Taragai river, one of the Greater Naryn sources; but the lower you put-in, the better - another road goes along the river at least as far as the Karakol confluence.
If you only plan to run the Naryn Falls Canyon, then the way to the put-in is completely different, as there's no road along the river below Karakol (nor it would be a best route even if a road were there). You should first go to Naryn town, and from there drive to the Tash-Bashat village, near the Greater/Smaller Naryn confluence on the road that goes up Smaller Naryn valley. No road goes up the Greater Naryn, but there is a rough track, passable for 4x4 vehicles, that forks east at Tash-Bashat and shortcuts the bend that Greater Naryn makes before the confluence. The road climbs up on the plateau, crosses one small pass, then a small tributary of Greater Naryn and finally climbs the second pass, from where you can see the river above the canyon. There's no road down to the river, so you'll have to walk about 2 km dropping some 500 m of altitude.
Take out is at the road bridge few hundred meters before Smaller Naryn confluence - it is the same road that goes from Naryn town to the Smaller Naryn valley.
There's no road along the river for its whole length, so you should be self-supported if you start around Karakol. If you only go for the Naryn Falls Canyon, it's easily done in one day (in fact, it is 2 hours run) so you can quite safely leave all your gear behind and go empty.
The Taragai Basin is a borderland restricted area and you need a borderland permit to drive there.