Kaban Lakes, Kazan

Kaban Lakes in Kazan, Russia is a system of three lakes in the central part of the city. Known as Lower, Middle and Upper Kaban Lakes (Boar Lakes) they are collectively the largest lakes in Tatarstan, covering a total area of 186 hectares.

Originally formed on the site of the former Volga riverbed as a result of complications from sinkholes, the beautiful park grounds are now dotted with interesting attractions and cafes which are connected via walking paths and the embankment.

Legends and Mysteries

So where did the name of these lakes originate? According to one legend, there was a forest around the lakes which was inhabited by many wild boars. Over time, all the wild boars were exterminated, the forest cut down and the lake given its current name.

Another theory claims that the lake was named in honor of the son of the Bulgar Khan Kabanbek (Prince Kaban), who escaped to these lands while fleeing from the troops of Tamerlane. The waters of the lake healed the Prince of his wounds, and he built a new life near its shores.

Perhaps the most attractive legend of the lakes’ origins is associated with sunken treasure. When the city was besieged by the troops of Ivan the Terrible in the 16th century, the Khan’s entire treasury was secretly lowered to the bottom of the lake. Throughout the years, many attempts have been made to search for these treasures, but to date no riches have been found to support this theory.

Upper Kaban

Upper Kaban is a completely enclosed reservoir with no physical link to the other two lakes. The water level in the Upper Kaban is two meters higher than in the Lower and Middle Kaban.

Middle Kaban

From Middle Kaban runs a channel which connects to the Podwale Gulf on the Volga River. Due to the dam on the Middle Kaban near the village of Otary, the nearby Kuibyshev Reservoir is filled with pumps. Of the three lakes, Middle Kaban has the greatest depth– 19 meters, compared to the average 5 to 12 meters of the other two lakes. Years ago, ships could enter the lake through Botany Bayou, yet over time this passageway became clogged with narrow channels and low bridges.

In 2013, a rowing canal was built on Middle Kaban for Universiade, an international multi-sporting competition for students.

Lower Kaban

Lower Kaban is the most important of the three lakes, for this is where residents of Kazan come to relax. On the eastern shore is the colorful Staro-Tatarskaya Sloboda (Old Tatar settlement), located near Millennium Park. A promenade with bike paths runs along the entire embankment, and calm background music is played along the lake’s multi-level sidewalks, which are perfect for a leisurely stroll. On the northern shore of Lower Kaban is a whimsical musical fountain whose jets reach 50 meters in height; when the sun sets, the fountain is illuminated with multi-colored lights. Many smaller fountains can be found along the embankment, along which catamarans and boats are also available for rental. (Note that fountains operate only in warm weather.)

Since time immemorial, the lake had maintained a pristine purity and was home to many species of fish. Yet starting in the mid-20th century, its flora and fauna were severely affected by industrial waste, and the water was contaminated to the point of being undrinkable. Since the 1980s, ongoing efforts have been made to restore the lake to its original state. The results have been positive, and today the lakes are home to perch, roach, pike perch, pike and other fish. Ducks, geese and seagulls have also returned.

A visit to Kaban Lakes in Kazan now promises scenic outlooks, gorgeous sunrises and sunsets, a view of Old Tatar Settlement and a refreshing break from city bustle.