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Established: 1986
Size: 269 km2
Buffer zone: 793 km2

Contact information:
Melnikov, Vladimir Stepanovich, Director

Bolnichny per. 3g
Ust-Barguzin, Barguzinsky r-n.
Buryatia Republic, Russia 671623

Tel/fax: +7 (301-31) 9-15-78

Email: zabaikal@burnet.ru

Zabaikalsky Zaovednik

Siberian writer Valentin Rasputin wrote that “Baikal is one of the most resonant words in the world.”  Anyone who has been fortunate to visit Zabaikalsky National Park in the Buryatia Republic of eastern Russia might add that it is one of the most beautiful places on Lake Baikal.  Established to protect the unique natural ecosystems of the Baikal watershed, the multi-functional conservation area protects part of the western slopes of the Barguzin Mountain Range on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal.  The park’s coniferous forests host a wide array of wildlife, from brown bear to Manchurian wapiti to musk deer to capercaillie.  The endemic Baikal seal frolics in the lake’s waters, feeding on the abundance of fish.  The national park is included in the Lake Baikal World Heritage Site.

Photo © Konstantin Mikhailov

Zabaikalsky National Park Images
Zabaikalsky National Park Facts

Images of Zabaikalsky National Park
Click on each photo to see a large version.

Konstantin Mikhailov

A narrow isthmus connects the Svyatoy Nos Peninsula to the shore.

© Konstantin Mikhailov

Baikal holds one-fifth of the Earth's freshwater

© Konstantin Mikhailov

The lofty Barguzin Range flanks the Baikal shore.

© Konstantin Mikhailov

Land-locked Baikal seals are endemic to the lake.

© Konstantin Mikhailov

Brown bears inhabit the taiga forests around Baikal.


© Konstantin Mikhailov

A stream in the park delivers its waters to Lake Baikal.

© Konstantin Mikhailov

A view of Baikal's forested coast opens from a ridge on the Barguzin Range.

© Konstantin Mikhailov

Sunset over Lake Baikal is always a spectacular sight.

Zabaikalsky National Park Facts:

AnimalsVegetationGeographical FeaturesHistorical and Cultural Monuments Conservation StatusReferences


Wildlife in Zabaikalsky National Park is made up primarily of taiga faunal communities.  There are 291 terrestrial vertebrates in the park, including 44 mammals, 241 birds, three reptiles, and three amphibians.  Mountain hares (Lepus timidus) bound through the forest, while red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) scold them from the trees.  Wily sables (Martes zibellina) and ermines (M. erminea) slip over fallen logs and under tree roots, searching for mice and other small prey.  Brown bears (Ursus arctos) descend to the Baikal shore in spring to feed on the thousands of caddis flies (Trichoptera) gathered on the rocks.  Musk deer (Moschus moschiferus), Manchurian wapiti (Cervus elaphus), and moose (Alces alces) maneuver the forested slopes of the Barguzin Range in search of fresh browse.  Muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) swim in lakes and streams in the park.  The Ushkani Islands harbor important rookeries for the endemic Baikal seal (Phoca sibirica). 

Forest-dwelling birds in the part include the large capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), and its distant cousins, the northern black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix) and northern hazel hen (Tetrastes bonasia).  Nutcrackers (Nucifraga caryocatactes) pierce the silence of the forest with their shrill call.  Dark-sided flycatcher (Muscicapa sibirica), winged crossbill (Loxia leucoptera), and black woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) also inhabit the coniferous forests.  On Arangatui Lake and the Baikal shore, waterfowl such as horned grebe (Podiceps auritus), Eurasian bittern (Botaurus stellaris), greylag goose (Anser anser), ruddy shelduck (Tadorna ferruginea), falcated teal (Anas falcata), and spotbill duck (A. poecilorhyncha) can be observed.  The crested honey-buzzard (Pernis ptilorhynchus), black kite (Milvus migrans), osprey (Pandion haliaëtus), and white-tailed sea-eagle (Haliaëetus albicilla) are among the birds of prey gliding over the lake and forests.

Fish in the Barguzin and Chivykuisky bays and lakes and rivers of the park include Arctic cisco (Coregonus autumnalis), European whitefish (C. lavaretus), Arctic grayling (Thymallus arcticus), eelpout (Lota lota), pike (Esox lucius), perch (Perca fluviatilis), id (Leuciscus leuciscus, L. idus), and roach (Rutilus rutilus).  Chivykuisky Bay is an important spawning ground for whitefish in Lake Baikal.


Forests cover nearly two-thirds of the park area, and a third of these are made up of Scotch pine (Pinus sylvestris).  Mountain pine (Pinus pumila), which also occupies a third of the park, primarily occurs along the eastern shore of the lake in the understory.  Siberian pine (Pinus sibirica), larch (Larix gmelinii), and Siberian fir (Abies sibirica) make up the rest of the coniferous forests.  Firs generally are found near the more humid coastal area and in the northern part of the Svatoy Nos Peninsula.  Deciduous forests occupy a much smaller area (less than 10 percent of the park) and consist primarily of birch (Betula ermanii, B. platyphylla) and aspen (Populus tremula).  Old growth forests of Scotch and Siberian pine, fir, and larch occupy nearly four percent of the park. 

Plant communities in the park are distributed according to vertical zoning along the mountainous terrain.  The bottom belt of forests is primarily made up of larch forests with an undergrowth of mountain pine.  Mixed pine (P. sylvestris, P. sibirica) and larch forests occupy areas higher up.  Dark coniferous forests of fir, spruce, and Siberian pine are found from 400-500 m and 1000-1200 m above sea level, changing to larch and sparse spruce forests higher still.   From 1400-1500 m above sea level, mountain tundra ecosystems, alpine meadows, and rocky slopes dominate the terrain.  Bogs are numerous in the northern part of the reserve and around the mouths of rivers.

Relic steppe plant communities are found in the park along with rich alpine shrublands on the Ushkani Islands and the Svyatoy Nos Peninsula.  Forest communities of mountain pine and birch (Betula divaricata) are especially unique.  The rare Chosenia arbutifolia is found here at the western extent of its range.  Altogether, there are approximately 700 species of vascular plants in the park, of which there are 19 endemic species and nine rare species for the Baikal Region including Borodinia tilingii.

Geographical Features

Zabaikalsky National Park is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal in the Barguzinsky District in central Buryatia Republic.  The park includes the western slopes of the southern Barguzin Mountain Range, Syatoy Nos Peninsula, Ushkani and Chivyrkuisky islands, and Chivyrkuisky and Barguzin bays.  To the north, the park borders the Barguzinsky Zapovednik. 

Most of the park is mountainous landscape, made up of mid-level and high mountain ridges.  The major mountain systems are the Svyatoy Nos and Barguzin ranges, which traverse the park from northeast to southwest.  The highest point in the park is in the Barguzin Range at 2,376 m above sea level.  The highest point in the Svyatoy Nos Range is 1,877 m, on the peninsula of the same name.  The Chivyrkuisky Isthmus, formed by sediments of the Barguzin and Lesser Chivyrkuisky rivers, connects the Svyatoy Nos Peninsula with the eastern shore of Lake Baikal.  The Greater and Lesser Ushkani Islands are the tops of the underwater Akademichesky Range, which divides Lake Baikal into northern and southern basins.

The park boundary follows the water divide of the Barguzin River basin, located outside the park.  Many small rivers flow through the national park into Lake Baikal, the most significant of which are the Greater and Lesser Cheremshana and Greater Chivyrkui rivers.  The largest lakes are the Arangatui and Lesser Arangatui on the Chivyrkuisky Isthmus, which drain into Chivyrkuisky Bay.  The next largest lake is Lake Barmashovo, known for its pristine mineral waters. Additionally, there are two dozen karst lakes in the park.  There are several thermal springs in the park, inclouding Zmeinyi, Nechaevsky, and Kulinoye.

Aquatic ecosytems of Lake Baikal occupy 13.8 percent (37,000 ha) of the park.  The national park includes the Chivyrkuisky Bay and part of Barguzin Bay on Lake Baikal, as well as a section of the lake shore to the north of these bays.

Climate in the park is continental with long, cold winters and warm, often dry summers.  Lake Baikal buffers the climate in the coastal regions of the park, making the weather milder.  The average temperatures in January are -18 to -19 degrees Celcius, and in July 12 to 14 degrees Celcius.  In the mountains, the average temperatures are lower. 

The water temperature of Lake Baikal seldom rises above 14 degrees Celcius.  Average annual precipitation ranges from 350 mm near the coast to 450 mm in the mountains.  The prevailing winds are from the west and southwest.

Historical and Cultural Monuments

There are a number of historical and cultural monuments in the national park, including the Monakhovskaya, Nizhneizgolovskaya, Zimoveinomysskaya and Shimaiskaya markings.  Archeological sites of interest in the park include camps from the Neolithic era, tombs from the second century b.c., tombs of nomads from the XIV-XV centuries, traces of an ancient irrigation system, and 35 settlements from the Bronze and early Iron ages.  There are also a number of unique natural formations in the park, 17 of which were dedicated natural monuments even before the park was created.  Landscape natural monuments include Ongo-Konsky Cape, Bolshoi Baklany (“great cormorant”) Island, and the Ushkani Islands.  Geological monuments include Malocheremshanskaya Cave, Poyushiye Peski (“singing sands”), the Greater and Lesser Kyltygey Islands, and Kameshek-Bezymyanny (“nameless rock”) Island.  Hydrological monuments of special interest are Zmeiny, Nechaevsky, and Kulinye Swamp springs, and Lake Arangatui.  Cheremchanskaya Grove is a botanical natural monument.

Conservation Status

In the early 1970s, the Lengiprogor Institute drafted a proposal on creating what would have been the first national park in Russia – the Chivyrkuisky National Park – within the bounds of present day Zabaikalsky National Park.  However, since national parks were a new concept in the Soviet Union at the time, the specialists involved at the institute, being more familiar with building resorts than conserving nature, made a number of mistakes in the planning process and the end proposal was hardly consistent with nature conservation goals.  They requested large amounts of funding to fulfill their plans, and the Soviet government rejected the proposal.  Over the next decade, experience in nature conservation and creation of new national parks in the country demonstrated ways to integrate goals for conservation of natural and cultural heritage with tourism and sustainable nature use.  On September 12, 1986 the Government of the Russian Federation approved creation of Zabaikalsky National Park in the Buryatia Republic to conserve the unique natural ecosystems of Lake Baikal.

The national park is part of the Lake Baikal World Natural Heritage Site.  There are different zones of conservation in the park:  the strictly protected part of the park (107,000 ha.), the protected aquatic area (3,700 ha), a monitored recreation zone along the coast (93,400 ha), an intensive recreation zone on Lake Baikal and Arangatui Lakes (42,000 ha), a protected bird sanctuary (14,200 ha), and the visitor’s zone (8,800 ha).  The park’s buffer zone includes a coastal strip of 79,300 ha.  However, unlike many national parks in more populated parts of Russia, the isolated Zabaikalsky National Park is primarily a wilderness area.  Only one road leads into the park, allowing park officials to control the flow of visitors.  There are only three settlements within the bounds of the park, with a combined population of 180 people.

Traditionally, most of the scientific research in the park has been carried out by the Siberian Branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences.  Topics of research have included “Development of a landscape stability map,” “Development of a geomorphological map,” “Description of recreational zones, tourist routes, and ecological paths,” “Study of fauna and ecology of terrestrial vertebrates,” and “Evaluation of the present state of vegetation cover.”

Ecological education is a prominent component of the national park’s activities, and all local villages are included in education programs.  The park runs the Podlemorye Ecological Center in the town of Ust-Barguzin, and organizes ecological camps for children, as well as other programs and conferences on building environmental awareness.

Lake Baikal is a popular tourist destination.  Each year over 20,000 tourists visit Zabaikalsky National Park.  Five hiking and two lake routes are offered to visitors to the park.  Scientific and adventure tourism programs are also well developed.  There are two camps equipped for 20 persons each in the park.  The national park works with a number of organizations on promoting ecotourism including Friends of the National Parks of Russia, Sierra Club, Earth Island Institute, and Baikal Watch.  Zabaikalsky National Park is a member of the “Baikal Nature Association of Protected Areas of the Baikal Region.”


Internet site:  http://ngo.burnet.ru/znp (Russian)

Chebakova, I.V.  National Parks of Russia.  Biodiversity Conservation Center, Moscow, 1997 (English).

Zabelina, N.M, L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova.  Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia.  Logata.  Moscow, 1998 (Russian and English).

Text prepared by Laura Williams.

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