The Kosbastau oasis is located east of the Ulken (Big) Kalkan mountains, 28 km from the village of Basshi, on the way to the Katutau and Aktau mountains.

The Kosbastau post, with relic turanga groves and long-living trees, including the famous 700-year-old willow, is a popular place to rest on the way to the Katutau and Aktau mountains or back.

In the summer heat it is always cool here, with a cold stream, a lot of greenery and a small lake - all making a contrast with the surrounding desert.

Kosbastau Campsite in Altyn-Emel
Kosbastau Post in Altyn-Emel
Kosbastau in Altyn-Emel Park

"Dancing" Turanga, the Relict Asiatic Poplar

The Altyn-Emel National Park is one of the few places where turanga groves, which are several thousand years old, have been preserved.

Turanga is a unique relic Asiatic poplar from the Willow family, which survived the Ice Age and adapted to life in a hot and arid desert climate, one of the common plants of the Ili river valley. There are two varieties of turanga - the diversifolious poplar and the glaucous-leaved poplar (the latter is listed in the Red Book of Kazakhstan).

Normally, on sandy saline soils, turanga looks like a tree with a spreading crown and quite a straight trunk. However, in the Kosbastau oasis there is a small grove where turanga trees meander and stretch their tops towards the sky as if they dance.

This happens due to the unusual conditions for the trees - here flows a radon stream, the soil is wet, there is a lot of shade and grass, and the turanga trees grow very close to each other.

Turanga is easy to recognize by its characteristic small rounded leaves.

Turanga, Altyn-Emel
Turanga in Summer
Turanga in Autumn

700-Year-Old Willow

There grow trees in the Kosbastau oasis which have the age of several hundreds of years. The largest of them, 20 meters high, has a trunk girth of 15 meters.

The age of the ancient willow is estimated at 700 years. It is believed that Genghis Khan himself rested under the tree during his campaign in Central Asia, but this is nothing more than a legend, because the Mongol army passed through these lands in 1219.

Nevertheless, this amazing tree is respected by local people as sacred, which should not be harmed in any way.

The 700-year-old willow in the Kosbastau oasis is usually visited by tourists on their way to the Aktau and Katutau mountains.

Old Willow in Altyn-Emel
700-Year-Old Willow

Warm Springs

Near the Kosbastau post there is a year-round warm (28°C) spring with radon water. It is supposed to cause genetic and chromosomic mutations of the giant willow tree.

At present, the available data do not allow for a consensus on the effect of chronic irradiation (long-term exposure at low dose rate) on plant growth. Some researchers point to inhibition (delay) of growth, others reject the presence of any consequences of radiation exposure, and still others note the possibility of hormesis, that is, a positive effect of relatively low doses of radiation on accelerating tree growth.

It is also known that warm radon springs are curative for humans and are widely used in balneology for the treatment of various diseases.

Warm Springs in Altyn-Emel
Thermal Spring in Kosbastau, Altyn-Emel
Arba Travel

Arba Travel offers tours from Almaty and transfer service from the village of Basshi to the Aktau mountains with a stop at the Kosbastau oasis.

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Your Guide to Altyn-Emel National Park

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