Yenisei River

The Yenisei (Russian: Енисе́й, Yeniséy; Mongolian: Енисей мөрөн, Yenisei mörön; Buryat: Горлог мүрэн, Gorlog müren; Tyvan: Улуг-Хем, Uluğ-Hem; Khakas: Ким суг, Kim sug)[4] also Romanised Yenisey, Enisei, Jenisej,[5] is the largest river system flowing to the Arctic Ocean. It is the central of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean (the other two being the Ob and the Lena). Rising in Mongolia, it follows a northerly course to the Yenisei Gulf in the Kara Sea, draining a large part of central Siberia. Yenisei is the fifth-longest river system in the world.

Bii-Khem and Kaa-Khem near Kyzyl
The Yenisei basin, including Lake Baikal
Etymologyfrom either Old Kyrgyz Эне-Сай (Ene-Sai, “mother river”) or Evenki Ионэсси (Ionəssi, “big water”)[1][2]
Native nameЕнисей  (Russian)
CountryMongolia, Russia
RegionTuva, Krasnoyarsk Krai, Khakassia, Irkutsk Oblast, Buryatia, Zabaykalsky Krai
CitiesKyzyl, Shagonar, Sayanogorsk, Abakan, Divnogorsk, Krasnoyarsk, Yeniseysk, Lesosibirsk, Igarka, Dudinka
Physical characteristics
  locationridge Dod-Taygasyn-Noor, Mongolia
  coordinates50°43′46″N 98°39′49″E
  elevation3,351 m (10,994 ft)
MouthYenisei Gulf
Arctic Ocean, Russia
Length3,438 km (2,136 mi)
Basin size2,580,000 km2 (1,000,000 sq mi)
  average19,600 m3/s (690,000 cu ft/s)
  minimum3,120 m3/s (110,000 cu ft/s)
  maximum112,000 m3/s (4,000,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
  rightAngara, Lower Tunguska, Stony Tunguska River

The maximum depth of the Yenisei is 24 metres (80 ft) and the average depth is 14 metres (45 ft). The depth of river outflow is 32 metres (106 ft) and inflow is 31 metres (101 ft).

Course of the river

The river flows through Tuva, Khakassia[6] and the city of Krasnoyarsk.[7]

Its tributaries include the Angara, Nizhnyaya Tunguska, Podkamennaya Tunguska and Tuba rivers.[8]

Lake Baikal

The 320-kilometre (200 mi), partly navigable Upper Angara River feeds into the northern end of Lake Baikal from the Buryat Republic but the largest inflow is from the Selenga which forms a delta on the southeastern side.[9]

Flora and fauna

The Yenisei River basin (excluding Lake Baikal and lakes of the Khantayka River headwaters) is home to 55 native fish species, including two endemics: Gobio sibiricus (a gobionine cyprinid) and Thymallus nigrescens (a grayling).[10] The grayling is restricted to Khövsgöl Nuur and its tributaries.[10] Most fish found in the Yenisei River basin are relatively widespread Euro-Siberian or Siberian species, such as northern pike (Esox lucius), common roach (Rutilus rutilus), common dace (Leuciscus leuciscus), Siberian sculpin (Cottus poecilopus), European perch (Perca fluviatilis) and Prussian carp (Carassius gibelio). The basin is also home to many salmonids (trout, whitefish, charr, graylings, taimen and relatives) and the Siberian sturgeon (Acipenser baerii).[10]

The Yenisei River valley is habitat for numerous flora and fauna, with Siberian pine and Siberian larch being notable tree species. In prehistoric times Scots pine, Pinus sylvestris, was abundant in the Yenisei River valley circa 6000 BC.[11] There are also numerous bird species present in the watershed, including, for example, the hooded crow, Corvus cornix.[12]

Taimyr reindeer herd

The Taimyr reindeer herd, a migrating tundra reindeer (R.t. sibiricus), the largest reindeer herd in the world,[13][14] migrated to winter grazing ranges along the Yenisei River.[15]:336

River steamers first came to the Yenesei River in 1864 and were brought in from Holland and England across the icy Kara Sea. One was the SS Nikolai. The SS Thames attempted to explore the river, overwintered in 1876, but was damaged in the ice and eventually wrecked in the river. Success came with the steamers Frazer, Express in 1878, and the next year, Moscow hauling supplies in and wheat out. The Dalman reached Yeneisisk in 1881.

Imperial Russia placed river steamers on the massive river in an attempt to free up communication with land-locked Siberia. One boat was the SS St. Nicholas which took the future Tsar Nicholas II on his voyage to Siberia, and later conveyed Vladimir Lenin to prison.

Engineers attempted to place river steamers on regular service on the river during the building of the Trans-Siberian Railway. The boats were needed to bring in the rails, engines and supplies. Captain Joseph Wiggins sailed the Orestes with rail and parted out river steamers in 1893. However, the sea and river route proved very difficult with several ships lost at sea and on the river. Both the Ob and Yenisei mouths feed into very long inlets, several hundred kilometres in length, which are shallow, ice bound and prone to high winds and thus treacherous for navigation. After the completion of the railway, river traffic reduced only to local service as the Arctic route and long river proved much too indirect a route.

The first recreation team to navigate the Yenisei's entire length, including its violent upper tributary in Mongolia, was an Australian-Canadian effort completed in September 2001. Ben Kozel, Tim Cope, Colin Angus and Remy Quinter were on this team. Both Kozel and Angus wrote books detailing this expedition,[16] and a documentary was produced for National Geographic Television.

A canal inclined plane was built on the river in 1985 at the Krasnoyarsk Dam.[17]


Nomadic tribes such as the Ket people and the Yugh people have lived along the banks of the Yenisei river since ancient times, and this region is the location of the Yeniseian language family. The Ket, numbering about 1000, are the only survivors today of those who originally lived throughout central southern Siberia near the river banks. Their extinct relatives included the Kotts, Assans, Arins, Baikots and Pumpokols who lived further upriver to the south. The modern Ket lived in the eastern middle areas of the river before being assimilated politically into Russia during the 17th through 19th centuries.[18]

Some of the earliest known evidence of Turkic origins was found in the Yenisei Valley in the form of stelae, stone monoliths and memorial tablets dating from between the 7th and 9th centuries AD, along with some documents that were found in China's Xinjiang region. The written evidence gathered from these sources tells of battles fought between the Turks and the Chinese and other legends. There are also examples of Uyghur poetry, though most have survived only in Chinese translation.[19]

Wheat from the Yenisei was sold by Muslims and Uighurs during inadequate harvests to Bukhara and Soghd during the Tahirid era.[20]

Russians first reached the upper Yenisei in 1605, travelling from the Ob River, up the Ket River, portaging and then down the Yenisei as far as the Sym River.[21]

During World War II, Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire agreed to divide Asia along a line that followed the Yenisei River to the border of China and then along the border of China and the Soviet Union.[22]


Studies have shown that the Yenisei suffers from contamination caused by radioactive discharges from a factory that produced bomb-grade plutonium in the secret city of Krasnoyarsk-26, now known as Zheleznogorsk.[23]

See also


  1. Прокофьев, Александр Андреевич (30 August 1990). "Избранное : стихотворения, поэмы" via Google Books.
  2. Мирнова, Светлана (5 September 2017). "Реки, моря и океаны. Вся вода на Земле". Litres via Google Books.
  3. "Station: Igarka". Yenisei Basin. UNH / GRDC. Retrieved 31 March 2013.
  4. A.Ochir. "History of the Mongol Oirats" 1993
  5. "Yenisei River". Hammond Quick & Easy Notebook Reference Atlas & Webster Dictionary. Hammond. p. 31. ISBN 0843709227.
  6. "Yenisei River: Siberia's blessing and curse". RT. 11 June 2010. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  7. Alan Taylor (23 August 2013). "A Year on the Yenisei River". The Atlantic. Retrieved 8 June 2014.
  8. C Michael Hogan (13 May 2012). "Yenisei River". Encyclopedia of Earth. Retrieved 23 April 2015.
  9. "Yenisei River". Geology Page. 4 February 2014. Retrieved 6 January 2019.
  10. Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (2008). Yenisei. Retrieved 16 July 2014.
  11. Stein, Ruediger et al. 2003. Siberian river run-off in the Kara Sea, Proceedings in Marine Sciences, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 488 pages
  12. C. Michael Hogan. 2009. Hooded Crow: Corvus cornix,, ed, N. Stromberg Archived 26 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  13. Russell, D.E.; Gunn, A. (20 November 2013). "Migratory Tundra Rangifer". NOAA Arctic Research Program. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  14. Kolpashikov, L.; Makhailov, V.; Russell, D. (2014). "The role of harvest, predators and socio-political environment in the dynamics of the Taimyr wild reindeer herd with some lessons for North America". Ecology and Society.
  15. Baskin, Leonid M. (1986), "Differences in the ecology and behaviour of reindeer populations in the USSR", Rangifer, Special Issue (1): 333–340, retrieved 7 January 2015
  16. Five Months in a Leaky Boat: A River Journey Through Siberia, Kozel, 2003, Pan Macmillan
  17. Permanent International Association of Navigation Congresses. (1989). Ship lifts: report of a Study Commission within the framework of Permanent . PIANC. ISBN 978-2-87223-006-8. Retrieved 14 December 2011.
  18. Vajda, Edward G. "The Ket and Other Yeniseian Peoples". Retrieved 27 October 2006.
  19. Halman, Talah. A Millenium of Turkish Literature. p. 6.
  20. Ian Blanchard (2001). Mining, Metallurgy and Minting in the Middle Ages: Asiatic supremacy, 425-1125. Franz Steiner Verlag. pp. 271–272. ISBN 978-3-515-07958-7.
  21. Fisher, Raymond Henry (1943). The Russian Fur Trade, 1550-1700. University of California Press.
  22. Weinberg, Gerhard L. Visions of Victory: The Hopes of Eight World War II Leaders Cambridge, England, United Kingdom:2005--Cambridge University Press
  23. David Hoffman (17 August 1998). "Wastes of War: Radioactivity Threatens a Mighty River". The Washington Post. Retrieved 13 February 2015.

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