Rivers in Kyrgyzstan

There are more than 40,000 rivers and streams in Kyrgyzstan, with  combined length of roughly 150,000 km and draining some 47 cubic km of water a year. The main source of water for the rivers in Kyrgyzstan is melting water from the numerous glaciers and snowfields in the mountains. The contribution of rainfall amounts to less than one fifth of the water flow.

Most of the mountain streams are not really navigable due to the extreme drop in altitudes, the complicated relief of the riverbeds and the velocity of the river flow. Many of them, however, are suitable for white water rafting and similar activities.

The River Naryn is the longest river in Kyrgyzstan (535 km in length) and in fact, the river is famous from antiquity. Formed by the confluence of the Big and Litlle Naryn Rivers, just above the town of Naryn, it collects the waters of several large tributaries such as the At Bashi and Kekemeren until flows into the Toktogul Reservoir and the flows south breaking through the Ferghana Range into the Ferghana valley and then amasses yet more tributaries until eventually it flows as the Syr Darya (the ancient name by which it was known) into the Aral Sea.  

Downstream, the river is used extensively for hydroelectric power generation and it flows into the giant Toktogul Reservoir that you would see if you used the main Bishkek-Osh road. The river is a potential source of friction with Uzbekistan, since Kyrgyzstan wants to retain more of the water for its own uses. 

The Talas – although a major river, it is perhaps best known because it was on the banks of the river in 751 that the Chinese suffered the defeat that marked the end of the Westwards expansion – and released the secrets of the manufacture of paper and silk to the wider world.

The Chui (or Chu) in the North, which flows from the Naryn region, around the eastern edge of the Kyrgyz Hrebet, through Book Gorge and then the Chui valley past Bishkek and finally dissipates into the deserts of Kazakhstan. It was once thought that the river flowed out of Lake Issyk Kul, but this is not true, it swings around the mountains and cuts a course that misses the lake by several kilometers. In the Bishkek region the Southern flank of the valley is formed by the Kyrgyz Hrebet mountain range – and the Northern flank by the gentle Jalanash hills in Kazakhstan. The valley is intensively irrigated. 

The Sary Jaz, which rises from the slopes of the Khan Tengri massif and flows past some impressive peaks, swinging into China.

The Chatkal is located in the Western Tian Shan mountain range, and flows through a remote valley in the extreme West of the country and into Uzbekistan. It is flanked by the 120 km long mountain range of the same name and the Chandalash range.

River

Length
km

Size of River basin
ths's sq. km

Naryn

616

50.1

Talas

294

10.8

Chui

221

22.8

Kara Darya

189

16.2

Sary Jaz

165

12.1

Chatkal

155

6.9

Kyzyl Suu

128

7.8

Keke Meren

108

8.3