The Ili river originates in the Central Tien Shan in China and flows into the Balkhash lake in Kazakhstan, desalting its western part.

The length of the Ili river is 1439 km, of which 815 km (56.6%) falls on the territory of the Almaty region, where it is the largest river in the region and one of the largest rivers in the country. Ili is the third river in Kazakhstan in terms of water content after the rivers of Irtysh and Ural.

The river basin area is 140,000, the delta area is 9,000

The Ili river freezes at the end of November, the ice drift begins at the beginning of April. The average ice thickness is about half a meter.

The name of the Ili river is ancient, presumably associated with the Mongolian word ilansu - "sparkling".

Ili River


The Altyn-Emel National Park is located on the right bank of the Ili river, which forms its natural border in the south.

The territory of the Altyn-Emel park is a part of the Upper-Ili water management region, the main watercourses of which are:

- Tekes, Narynkol, Bayankol rivers (Tekes river basin, Raiymbek district of Almaty region);

- Big and Small Ketmensai streams (rivers of the left slope of the Ketmen ridge, Uygur district of Almaty region);

- Khorgos, Usek, Borokhudzir rivers (rivers of the southern slope of Dzhungarian Alatau, Panfilov and Kerbulak districts of Almaty region);

- Sharyn (Charyn), Karkara rivers (basin of the Sharyn river, Panfilov, Kerbulak and Raiymbek districts of Almaty region);

- Shelek (Chilik), Turgen, Esik (Issyk), Talgar, Kaskelen rivers (basin of the rivers of the Big Almaty Canal, Enbekshikazakh, Kerbulak and Karasai districts of Almaty region).

Environmental Threat

The freshwater ecosystem of the Ili river creates favorable conditions for the diversity of local flora and fauna: fish (28 species), amphibians, birds (in the delta of the Ili river, the richest species composition of birds is found).

However, at present, the water in the Ili river is much polluted, mainly from the side of China; consequently, this adversely affects aquatic organisms.

Both the rise in the water level and its decrease affect the stability of the aquatic ecosystems, especially in shallow waters, and lead to a reduction or termination of nesting of migratory birds.

At present, the shallowing and drying up of floodplain lakes, shallow floodplain part of the river leads to disappearance of usual fish spawning grounds and decrease in the number of fish-eating birds.

The high water level during man-made floods, along with the current speed, causes increased erosion of the right bank of the Ili river with tugais. After overflows of the river, patrol roads become impassable, the soil turns into a salt marsh.

There is also a significant siltation of the river and the Kapchagai reservoir due to the high silt content in the river water. In this regard, the conditions for the reproduction of the fish population in Kapchagai are deteriorating.

Ili River: Fish
Ili River: Amphibians
Ili River: Birds

Fishing and Tourism

The Kapchagai reservoir, into which the Ili river flows, is a popular place for beach holidays and fishing. You can get to Kapchagai on the territory of the Altyn-Emel National Park only via Checkpoint 1 from the Shengeldy village. In this part of the park there are also the most ancient historical and cultural monuments, the Besshatyr Saka burial mounds (I millennium BC) on the bank of the Ili river and the Tanbaly Tas petroglyphs of the Bronze Age in the Sholak Mountains (Dzhungarian Alatau), not far from the shore of Kapchagai.

Kapchagai, Altyn-Emel
Arba Travel

Arba Travel offers tours from Almaty to the Saka mounds of Besshatyr on the banks of the Ili river.

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