Volcanoes of Kamchatka

Cultural criteria: vii, viii, ix, x
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 1996, 2001

The Kamchatka Peninsula, washed by the Pacific Ocean, the Sea of Okhotsk and the Bering Sea, and being about 1,200 kilometers in length, is situated in a temperate zone, at the most eastern limit of the vast taiga zone forming a wide front along the whole North Eurasia. The peninsula is one of the links of the Pacific “volcanic ring”, and in relative proximity to it pass the deepest oceanic gutters and the lithospheric plate’s border. Such a location conditions a considerable seismic and volcanic activity of this region of the planet.

Kamchatka is an enormous natural museum of volcanology, whose “exhibits” are active and extinct volcanoes, as well as various kinds of satellites – geysers, fumaroles (steam and gas jets), hot sources, mud pots etc.

The heritage site includes six separate sections, situated in the east, center and south of the peninsula, in total area of about 3.8 million hectares. Taken together, they reflect almost all main volcanogenic landscapes of Kamchatka, but at the same time each of them has a striking individuality. Altogether in the six areas there are about 30 active and 300 extinct volcanoes.

Kronotsky Biosphere State Reserve (the east coast of Kamchatka, area of 1,142 thousand hectares, created in 1934).

Unique by its geological-geomorphological and hydrogeological conditions the beauty mountain terrain including 26 volcanoes (particularly 12 active ones), mountain glaciers (about 50) and lakes (the biggest is the Kronotsky Lake). The snow-capped cone of the Kronotsky volcano, 3,528 meters in height, is especially beautiful among active volcanoes.

In the tributary of the Shumnaya (Noisy) river there is the known Valley of Geysers (discovered in 1941 by geologist T.Ustinova). Its geysers, fumaroles, thermal and mineral “pulsating” sources, as well as the whole cascades of small waterfalls, represent a special phenomenon on a global basis, such natural phenomena in this considerable concentrations are also found only in some points of the planet (in New Zealand, Iceland, Japan and the Yellowstone Park in the USA). Fountains of boiling water and steam with clear periodicity gush from craters of geysers, some of which have figurative names such as “Giant”, “Big”, “Triple”, “Firstling”, and “Sugar”. Only in the 6 kilometers section of the Valley there are over 20 big geysers plus many tens of small and quite small thermal springs and steam and gas jets.

Another noteworthy place is the Uzon volcano’s caldera (discovered by K.Ditmar in 1854): this is a vast volcano cup, 10–12 kilometers in diameter, with sides 200–800 meters in height, inside of which there is a great number of mud pools and thermal lakes.

On the territory of the reserve 766 species of vascular plants, 58 species of mammals, 224 species of birds, and 93 ones of fishes were fixed. Of them 6 species of plants, 13 species of mammals, and 35 bird species are listed in the Red Book of Russia.

The annual attendance of the reserve is 4-5 thousand people, most of whom are participants of one-day informative helicopter excursions to the Valley of Geysers.

Bystrinsky Nature Park (the middle part of Kamchatka, 1,325 thousand hectares, 1995).

A little-developed high-mountain region differing by an exceptional landscape diversity and clearly defined high-altitude location of zones. This is an area of ancient volcanism with active and extinct volcanoes, cindery cones, nappes and bulges, thermal springs. The ultimate mark here is 3,607 meters (active volcano is Ichinsky). Here are also valuable monuments of history, culture and archaeology (neolithic sites); in the settlement of Esso there is an ethnographic museum of the Even culture.

Nalychevo Natural Park (southeast of Kamchatka, about 300 thousand hectares, 1995)

In the park there are four active volcanoes, of which the highest is the Koryak Volcano (3,456 meters), this is also the Zhupanovsky Volcano, the Avachinsky Volcano and Dzendzur, and here are also several extinct volcanoes.

The park also comprises the known Nalychevskaya health-resort zone, including about 200 healing springs of thermal and mineral waters. Medicinal waters resources of this area are compared with the riches of the Caucasian Mineral Waters. The Nalychevo Park is the most accessible area of all being a part of the Volcanoes of Kamchatka site: at present 3–4 thousand people a year climb up local volcanoes, and about 2 thousand more visit healing springs.

South-Kamchatka Nature Park (the southern Kamchatka, 480 thousand hectares, 1995).

Exceptional landscape’s diversity of the area is achieved thanks to combination of plain seaside areas and exotic cone volcanoes; active and extinct volcanoes are of special interest, as well as thermal and mineral sources.

South Kamchatka Federal Preserve (the southern extremity of Kamchatka, including the Cape Lopatka and the Kurilskoye Lake, 225 thousand hectares, 1983).

An important migration route of birds of passage runs through the preserve, and in this connection in certain seasons there are big accumulations of waterfowls and semi-aquatic birds. On the Kurilskoye Lake Kamchatka blueback spawns almost all the year round.

Kliuchevskoy Nature Park (the eastern Kamchatka, 376 thousand hectares, 1999).

The basis of the whole “natural composition” is the Kliuchevskoy volcano, whose nice symmetric cone reaches the mark of 4,750 meters. This is the highest summit of not only Kamchatka, but of the whole Russian Far East; moreover, it is reckoned Eurasia’s highest active volcano and one of the most active one on the whole continent. For the last 300 years on the volcano about 50 strong eruptions were fixed.

One should note mammals found on the six sections of the heritage site such as sea otter, sea lion, brown bear (Kamchatkan subspecies – one of the biggest in the world fauna), sable, bighorn sheep, and birds such as osprey, golden eagle, peregrine, white-tailed (sea) eagle, Steller's sea eagle (Kamchatka’s share is about ½ of the world population of this species), deadly nightshade, Bewick's swan, swan goose. Local mountain rivers are notable for salmon fishes’ highest productivity, variety and number: they are chum, humpback, coho, blueback, chinook; in summer and autumn shoals running into millions move, overcoming the disturbed turbulent flow, upstream to their spawning area. On the rocky Bering Sea and Pacific Ocean shores there are big seabird colonies, in coastal waters often come dolphins and whales (including grey whale, hump-backed whale, fish whale, Greenland right whale). Many Kamchatka animals figure in the Red Book of Russia, and some of them are listed in the International Red Book as well.