Ural (river)

The Ural (Russian: Урал, pronounced [ʊˈraɫ]), known as Yaik (Russian: Яик, Bashkir: Яйыҡ, romanized: Yayıq, pronounced [jɑˈjɯq]; Kazakh: Жайық, romanized: Zhayyk, جايىق, pronounced [ʑɑˈjəq]) before 1775, is a river flowing through Russia and Kazakhstan in the continental border between Europe and Asia. It originates in the southern Ural Mountains and discharges into the Caspian Sea. At 2,428 kilometres (1,509 mi), it is the third-longest river in Europe after the Volga and the Danube, and the 18th-longest river in Asia. The Ural is conventionally considered part of the boundary between the continents of Europe and Asia.

This article is about a river. For other uses, see Ural (disambiguation).

Major river in Russia and Kazakhstan

The river Ural from an airplane between Uralsk and Atyrau, Kazakhstan
Countries Kazakhstan, Russia
Physical characteristics
  location Ural Mountains
Mouth Caspian Sea


Length 2,428 km (1,509 mi)
Basin size 231,000 km2 (89,000 sq mi)
  average 400 m3/s (14,000 cu ft/s)
Official name Ural River Delta and adjacent Caspian Sea coast
Designated 10 March 2009
Reference no. 1856[1]

The Ural arises near Mount Kruglaya in the Ural Mountains, flows south parallel and west of the north-flowing Tobol, through Magnitogorsk, and around the southern end of the Urals, through Orsk where it turns west for about 300 kilometres (190 mi), to Orenburg, where the river Sakmara joins. From Orenburg it continues west, passing into Kazakhstan, then turning south again at Oral, and meandering through a broad flat plain until it reaches the Caspian a few miles below Atyrau, where it forms a fine ‘digitate’ (tree-like) delta.[2]

. . . Ural (river) . . .

The bridge across the Ural in the Uchalinsky District (Bashkortostan)

The river begins at the slopes of the Kruglaya Mountain[3] of the Uraltau mountain ridge in South Ural, on the territory of the Uchalinsky District of Bashkortostan. There it has an average width of 60 to 80 metres (200 to 260 ft) and flows as a typical mountain river. It then falls into the Yaik Swamp and after exiting it widens up to 5 kilometres (3 mi). Below Verkhneuralsk, its flow is characteristic of a flatland river; there it enters Chelyabinsk and Orenburg Oblasts. From Magnitogorsk to Orsk its banks are steep and rocky and the bottom has many rifts. After Orsk, the river abruptly turns west and flows through a 45-kilometre (28 mi) long canyon in the Guberlinsk Mountains. After Uralsk, it flows from north to south, through the territory of West Kazakhstan Region and Atyrau Region of Kazakhstan. There, the river widens and has many lakes and ducts. Near the mouth, it splits into the Yaik and Zolotoy distributaries[4][5] and forms vast wetlands. The Yaik distributary is shallow, with almost no trees on the shores, and is rich in fish; whereas Zolotoy is deeper and is navigable.[6] Ural River has a spectacular tree-like (or “digitate”) shape of the delta (see image). This type of delta forms naturally in the slow rivers which deliver a great deal of sediments and flow into a quiet sea.[2] In the delta, 13.5 kilometres (8.4 mi) from the mouth of the Zolotoy distributary lies Shalyga Island, which is 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) long, with heights of 1 to 2 metres (3 to 7 ft) and maximum widths of 0.3 kilometres (980 ft).[7]

The tributaries, in order going upstream, are Kushum, Derkul, Chagan, Irtek, Utva, Ilek (major, left), Bolshaya Chobda, Kindel, Sakmara, Tanalyk (major, right), Salmys, Or (major, left) and Suunduk.[5]

The entire length of the Ural River is considered the Europe-Asia boundary by most authoritative sources.[8][9][10] Rarely, the smaller, shorter Emba River is claimed as the continental boundary,[11][12] but that pushes “Europe” much further into “Central Asian” Kazakhstan. The Ural River bridge in Orenburg is even labeled with permanent monuments carved with the word “Europe” on one side, “Asia” on the other.[13] Regardless, Kazakhstan has some European territory and is at times included in European political and sports organizations[14][15]

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. . . Ural (river) . . .

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