The lake itself is situated some 1873 meters above sea level, it stretches for some 7.5 kilometers, varying in width from 350 m. to 1500 m. and it at its deepest point reaches a depth of 234 m. There is some dispute about how it was formed — some scholars think It resulted from the collapse of two ridges of mountains which blocked the river and held back the waters and others as a result of a shift along a fault line some 2000 years ago. The waters often appear a greenish shade of blue — and make attractive photographs.
There are also some other small lakes to the south-east (such as Kyla Kol, Iyri Kol, Aram Kol, Cherek Kol, and Bakaly Kol), but Sary Chelek is regarded as the «gem» — the «Jewel in the Crown».
The Lake’s picturesque shores are thought by many of the local population to be the most beautiful in Kyrgyzstan. The steep slopes, (in places sheer), are covered with pine, silver fir and archa (myrtle) trees. A dendrological park (tree garden or Arboretum) has been established in the reserve, and although this is not highlighted as a visitor attraction, offers the opportunity to encounter the trees and bushes of the region, with living examples to complement the dried specimens found in museums.
Generally the climate is damper and milder than in the rest of Kyrgyzstan. The high mountain ridges protect the reserve from the cold north winds in winter and the temperature here is much higher than elsewhere in the valleys (although it can fall to -27.) Snow cover in winter, which lasts for over 100 day each year, is fairly uneven — on the southern slopes, often there is no settled snow, but elsewhere it can be over a meter deep. In early summer (May and June) there is a combination of warmth and humidity, which gives way in late summer to warm, dry, windless days.
Some fishing is permitted in the rivers feeding the lake, but not on the lake itself. Swimming was prohibited after some fatal casualties in 1983. Hunting is absolutely prohibited within the reserve, although illegal hunting is a problem.
There is a museum is situated in a building next to the Zapovednik administration office which contains a topographical model of the Zapovednik, stuffed animals, insects and birds, and examples of different kind of trees and their timber (Kyrgyzstantravel.net)
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