We are speaking about the Turka River. This is the place where everyone’s favorite fish - omul (Arctic cisco) – comes to breed and where a large modern port called “Baikal Harbor” is situated.
Baikal owes the crystal purity and icy freshness of its waters to the numerous rivers, flows, and streams that annually bring their waters to the lake. One of these “water donors” is the Turka River, originating in the southern spurs of the Ikatsky Range. Beginning from its eastern alpine source, it flows along the distance of 272 km across the territory of Buryatia to the confluence with the middle part of the Lake near the Turka village, between the ridges of Ulan-Burgasy and Golondinsky.
Explaining the meaning of the mysterious name of the river, we cannot find an unambiguous interpretation that would satisfy everyone. However, one thing is clear for sure: trying to answer this question, all interested parties have always appealed to the linguistic history of the indigenous peoples of Baikal - the Evenki (Tungus) and the Buryats.
First of all, people recall the Evenki word “Turk” meaning “omul”, “the place of omul”. Indeed, this is no coincidence. This famous fish has always went to breed to the river, where it joined the already existing numerous diverse fish species.
However there is also another translation of the word “Turka” as a verb: “to get out of the forest to an open place”, “to jump”, “to aim at the target”, which is close to the meaning of “to move fast”. At this, it is proposed to “take a closer look” at the Evenki word “turgehen” and the Buryat word “turgite” – both words mean “rapid, fast, lively”. This is the evidence of the fact that the locals knew the unruly nature of the river from its source to its middle reaches very well, for the river had shown this character to them many times.
Nikolai Gavrilovich Spathari was the first to mention the name of the river in 1675, writing it down alongside with the Kika River and Lake Kotakin (Kotokel). 200 years after that the Buryat chronicler Vandan Yumsunov mentioned the river, designating it as “Turkhene”.
An eponymous village is situated at the orifice of the Turka River. The history of the famous village dates back to the 1730s – 1750s, when the idea of a regular postal service began to be implemented throughout Russia. As it is believed, the first people began to live there precisely at that time: they performed their responsibilities in the field of communication service and transportation of goods; and the village itself was built as a postal unit located at the ferry crossing. Nowadays it is no longer a small coastal village, it is rather a settlement included into the special economic zone of the Baikal Harbor. It has a decent road, a new port, a modern large embankment ... Of course, this is no famous resort at some southern sea, but it is hard for travelers to find another place with such pristine views, such clean “fragrant” air, pure water. Besides, there is a beach not far from the village: the sand on that beach has a special reddish color, besides, a great variety of berries and mushrooms grow around, there are also unique hunting grounds nearby.
Turka makes its way through the wild, cross-country mountainous terrain. The lower reaches of the rivers are peaceful and quiet, but its upper part is completely different: it contains rapids, stony shallow areas with a powerful flow of water, pitfalls. This very character of Turka makes the river an extremely attractive place for rafting.
As the river approaches Baikal, its valley is not especially wide, on the contrary, it is relatively narrow – its width makes up about 1 km. The lowland is covered with diverse meadow vegetation, interspersed with separate trees. The banks around this part of the river are sandy and flat.
The main part of the territory along the river is not actually connected with human activities, therefore you can count upon come routine meeting with various wild animals coming to drink from the river. Then the river shows its unruly nature, and its banks are trying to compensate for the inconvenience, enabling the small number of travelers coming here to enjoy fresh pine nuts, lingonberries, blueberries, especially in August...
Turka gathers its rapid waters from the melting white snow, rain and numerous tributaries. The names of the individual tributaries are also related to the language of the indigenous peoples. The right tributaries include: Golonda (from the Evenki “golo” –“log, chock, scaffold, trunk of a fallen tree”), Yambui (from the Evenki “yumbu” –“dry, lean”), as well as Glubokii Klyuch (“Deep Spring”), Alekseevsky... The left tributaries are as follows: Zolkhun (from the Buryat “zolkhan” - “luck, happiness”), Ara-Khurkhak (from the Buryat “ara” – “northern” and “khurga(n)” – “fingers, finger”), Uta (from the Evenki “uta” – “to act in a calm way”)... But there is another water source –the amazing Lake Kotokel that runs off to Turka along the system of the rivers Istok - Kotochnik (from the Evenki “koto” – “a spear, a knife”).
The scientists have put forward a hypothesis stating that the connection between two lakes, Baikal and Kotokel, in ancient times was different from the modern connection between the lakes through the rivers (the distance between the lakes makes up 2 km). In addition, specific endemic Baikal plankton was discovered in Kotokel. However, as opposed to the crowded and noisy coast of Baikal, the coast of Kotokel is more preferable as a place for having rest among experienced travelers: the warm water in the shallow lake warms up to 25 degrees Celsius in summer, the swimming season is rather long, the fishing is excellent: you can catch perch, Siberian roach, ide, pike, carp, bream, you have an opportunity to gaze at the admirable migratory birds - swans, geese, ducks, or have a walk towards the picturesque wooded rocky Monakhov Island.
But a serious ecological disaster occurred at that place in 2008. The water and fish of the lake were poisoned due to contamination by microcystis - the most widespread bacterial toxin released during the blooming of certain types of cyanobacteria in water reservoirs. People have also suffered.
After a series of measures taken, the lake has begun to recover by now. Still, this accident shows us once again how fragile the natural balance is.
The quality of the water in the Turka River is regarded as good and pure. Its upper and middle reaches have a variety of fish, including large taimen that swims up the river in spring for breeding and feeding. There are also such fish species as local omul (Arctic cisco), grayling, lenok, crucian carp, perch, pike... Fishermen believe that this place is perfectly suitable for a successful fishing.
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