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Kamchatka > Kuril Lake
The Kuril Lake is located in the south of the peninsula and is one of the largest and most beautiful bodies of water in all of Kamchatka. The lake's name derives from the name of an aboriginal tribe, the Kurils, who used to inhabit the neighboring Kuril Islands. The Kuril Lake is of volcanic origin and is over 8,000 years old; it formed after a volcanic eruption and the emergence of a 76 sq. km [47 mile) fault in the earth's crust. The depth of the lake reached 300 m (1000 feet), and later cone-shaped lava formations came up to the surface and formed rocky islands. The most picturesque island here, Alaid's Heart, received its poetic name from a legend of the local inhabitants, the Itelmen.
Alaid, a gigantic volcano, as the legend goes, was once in the place of the Kuril Lake; Alaid's pride and independence used to make the neighboring mountains jealous. So, Alaid decided to leave his native land and head for the ocean. His path is now marked by a great river. A pink-colored island remains in the center of the lake where the volcano once stood: this is Alaid's Heart, the heart of this fearsome volcano that was left behind in his beloved motherland. Today the island is the home of thousands of seagulls.
The Kuril Lake is part of the South-Kamchatka Nature Preserve, the largest on this peninsula. The Preserve is one of Kamchatka's six locations included on the UNESCO Natural World Heritage List. The perfect geometrical forms of the Ilyinsky Volcano are reflected in the frigid waters of the lake. The volcano is not very tall (only 1,578 m or 5,177 feet), but is stunningly beautiful, its last eruption took place in 1901.
Another one of the local attractions is the massive exposed pumice-stone formations called Kukhtiny Baty. These cliffs reminded the native people of vertically stacked baty - the local carved boats, hence their name. Also impressive are the thermal openings, the Gremuchiye Springs, located near the Koshelyov and Kambalny Volcanoes. This small area features bubbling mud pools, boiling water funnels, and over 40 superheated steam streams that break through the ground.
The Lake is also famous for the grandiose spawning grounds of Sockeye salmon,
one of the Pacific Salmon species. About 2 million of these large fish come
to Kuril Lake from the ocean via the Ozernaya River. The peak of the spawning
season falls towards the end of the summer when the water literally turns red
with schools of salmon; the fish stay here through the fall, attracting hundreds
as well as birds — sea eagles, golden eagles, swans, and ducks that feed
on Sockeye Salmon
and its eggs.
The Nature Preserve area of the Kuril Lake is a "miniature Kamchatka" of sorts. Few tourists take an hour and a half helicopter ride from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky to reach this area; some joke that there are many more animals here than there are humans. Special watch towers and observation decks are built to allow everyone to see bears hunt.