Category: The Kamchatka Peninsula

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The Kamchatka Peninsula

With a population of about 240,000 people, Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky is an important port as well as a center of industry, science and adventure tourism. Kamchatka is without exaggeration one of the most spectacular regions in Russia. It occupies the area of 470,000 sq. km, which equals the size of France, Belgium and Luxembourg combined, and separates the Sea of Okhotsk from the Pacific Ocean. One should not confuse Kamchatka with Siberia; this name is used for the peninsula itself and the closest part of the continent, including Karaginsky Island and the Komandorsky Archipelago. The mountain ridges – Sredinny, Valaginsky, Ganalsky and Kumroch – stretch from the north to the south giving the peninsula the shape of a giant fish. There are more than 160 volcanoes on the peninsula (29 of them are active), due to the fact that it lies on the Great Pacific “ring of fire”. Volcanoes and volcanic peaks, cyclones and underground heat created here a mixture of twenty climate zones and a great variety of flora and fauna. But the main attractions of Kamchatka are volcanic calderas, stone sculpture “parks” and lakes in craters, geysers and mineral springs, all in pristine condition. Kamchatka’s location between the Bering and Okhotsk Seas means that we have an unstable climate. Typically about a meter of precipitation annually falls but the varied terrain on the Peninsula itself makes for many microclimates with some areas dryer, warmer, or colder than others. Often a very short distance can separate these varied climatic zones. Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky’s proximity to the ocean brings brisk winds and sometimes fog. In winter, Petropavlovsk can receive huge quantities of snow, while Yelizovo just 25 km inland received less than half that amount. Inland summers are warmer and dryer and winters colder as well. The Peninsula’s population has diminished in recent years with many people departing for the mainland where costs of living and climate are easier, especially for retirees. The approximate population of the Kamchatka Region and Koryak Independent District is 322,000. More than half of the population lives in Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (179500+ people) and Yelizovo (38,900). Kamchatka’s isolationfor many years helped protect a healthy and stable wildlife population with 37 species of mammals. The symbol of Kamchatka and the Yelizovo District is the brown bear (Ursos arctos). Kamchatka has the highest concentration of bears in Russia. Imagine a peninsula with 14,000 rivers and streams most of which support six species of salmon spawning and it is clear that Kamchatka’s salmon provide the needed food base for this abundance of bears. Added to this abundance is the unusually long spawning season of some of the salmon for example sockeye, which spawn from July to March. A big bear reaches 600 kg (375 pounds) and 2.5 meters from head to toe. Some of the other mammals on Kamchatka include: sable, mink, wolf, red fox, reindeer, moose, lynx, river otter, marmot, ground squirrel, tree squirrels, ermine, and wolverine. The sculptural stone birch forests, most common on Kamchatka, grow spaciously giving these forests a park-like view and make for very pleasant hiking. In the interior Milkovo area, there are white birch forests and near Esso and on the Kronotsky Preserve there are isolated stands of pine. Also in the Esso and nearby areas are abundant larch trees. Riverbeds are often lined with willows and some alders and hikers into the alpine tundra will cross patches of alder and Japanese pine. Over 1000 species of plants thrive in the short growing season.