Lena Pillars Nature Park
Fantastical landscape of upright limestone outcrops up to 300m high
Introduction to Lena Pillars Nature Park
About 140-200 kms southwest of the city of Yakutsk stand hundreds of prominent prehistoric rock columns called the Lena Pillars. These magnificent limestone outcrops, which are part of the Lena Pillars (Lenskie Stolby) Nature Park, tower over 150-300 meters high and occupy about an 80-kilometre stretch along the right bank of the eponymous river.
The Nature Park covers over 1.27 million hectares of forest land, embodying the diverse natural characteristics of the east Siberian taiga while preserving the pivotal Cambrian history in both its distinct carbonate bedrock and abundance of well-conserved ancient fossil deposits such as sponges, mollusks, shells and trilobites.
Fossils of primitive fauna were also found in the pillars’ area itself: mammoth (Mammulhus primigenius Blum), bison (Bison priscus Boj), fleecy rhinoceros (Coelodonta antiguibatis Blum), Lena horse (Eggus lenensis Russ), and wild reindeer (Rangifer tarandus L). At present, the reserve is host to a rich flora and fauna. The total flora within the park add up to 464 species, 276 genera and 81 families of tracheophytes and the fauna count 42 species of mammals and 99 kinds of breeding birds. Some of these plants and animals are included in the Red Book and are considered protected species.
The Lena Pillars Nature Park site is one of the 26 inscriptions of UNESCO in the World Heritage List in July 2012.
From Yakutsk, tourists can drive, ride a bus or take a boat to the town of Povrovsk, where the central office of the Nature Park is situated. The Park has two motor ships for passenger transference to the east bank of Lena river. The Park has three tourist centers situated in the town of Bestyakh, at the mouth of Buotama river, and at Labyja river. Bestyakh is 37 kms southwest of Povrovsk and located at the west bank of the river. Buotama is at the opposite side and is positioned at the mouth of Buotama river, which is a right tributary to the Lena. Labyja is located directly at the foot of the Pillars.
On a rafting tour, visitors start upstream of the Lena and directly at the site of the majestic Lena Pillars. Tourists can observe the petroglyphs drawn right on the rock pillars, settle at the Labyja Mouth and trek around the karst formations to observe the different odd shapes the columns have taken through thousands of years of natural erosion.
Tourists can relax while rafting along the long stretch of pillars on the Lena, they can fish and take a walking tour on sand dunes or tukkulans. The next stop downstream is the archaeological site, Diring-Yuryakh. Tourists can directly study the excavations where Paleolithic tools were discovered.
Further downstream, tourists will reach the mouth of Buotama river where they can stay at the Park’s tourist center or set up tents. Visitors can tour surrounding attractions at Buotama such as bird watching, visiting the bison farm, fishing and swimming.
Buotama can also be trekked from Lena Pillars through a 30-km detour through the taiga. Buotama river rafting tours can also be arranged during summer.
The historic colonnades that outline the east banks of the Lena river are silent witnesses to the evolution of the earth’s terrain, its species and the rise of the civilization for more than 500 million years.
Within the base of these pillars are the primary rock deposits from the Lower to Lower Middle Cambrian period which preserved a plethora of marine life known to have been existent precisely at the stage of the Cambrian explosion.
In the Pleistocene period, early mammals roamed the taiga of the present park. Fossils of mammoth, bison, reindeers, moose, woolly rhinoceros and Lena horses are found closely at the Pillars and along Buotama, Kuranah and Labyja rivers.
Developed stone tools found at the site suggest that culture were present at least by Late Paleolith and by Neolithic period, one can assume that people had started to develop much more complex stone tools for hunting and fishing. In hunting, moose seemed to be the common game as evidenced by brick-colored petroglyphs on both Lena and Buotama pillars.
Geologically, the pillars became the rugged outcrops that they are today through continuous permafrost and thermokarst activity over the millenia. This can be mainly attributed to the continental characteristic of the climate in the area, where winters are extremely cold and summers are extremely hot. Karst phenomena in the park area is widespread, and in the larch-pine forest, sinkholes are numerous, dry riverbeds and valleys, and the formation of karst lakes. The Pillars themselves were chiefly created 400,000 years ago. At this time, the Siberian platform where the whole region rests, was elevated for 200 metres due to tectonic movement. This caused a deep gap in the Lena river basin and increased the dissolution of carbonates in the area. This eventually led to broader crevices or gaps in between the rock colonnades and the creation of unique and odd niches, arches, cathedrals, caves, clefts, and so on.
Tour options for Lena Pillars Nature Park are present although limited perhaps because tourism in Yakutia has not reached full-scale nor is it totally commercialized. Although the park is located within the Khangalassky and Olekminsky Uluses (districts), most of the travel options documented online direct potential visitors to the city of Yakutsk as the main point of entry.
The best and fastest transportation route for international travelers to reach Lena Pillars is to travel by air. Tourists need to catch a plane to the city of Yakutsk and from there travel by land or course through the river. Land route transportation options to Yakutsk are through the Lena Highway and by railway. Lena Highway is under serious reconstruction because of extreme weather condition’s effect on the road. Also, both land routes are on the right bank of the Lena. As of writing, there are no permanent structures crossing over the river in all Yakutia. The city’s river port is open during the short months between spring and fall.
Available tours are often scheduled in the summer months of June to August and last from one day to two weeks. Water transportation include rafting/travel by river boat, by motorboat, by a cruise ship. In cruise trips to the Lena River, the duration is from 8 to 14 days. Cruise trips are advisable if you plan to visit other sights along the river. However if your objective is to see and appreciate this wonder up close, choose a tour that focuses on the Nature Park and nothing else. These ecotours can last a day or two at the least (motorboat direct to Elanka village near the pillars) or 15 days at the most (rafting from tributaries to Lena with stops). The longer trips include trekking and hiking around the pillars, camping in a tent beside the pillars or resting in tourist lodges within the park territory, fishing and swimming. Climate within Yakutia is continental or at extremes; summer’s hottest can reach up to 40˚C or 104F and winters can drop to -60˚C or -76F.
- Lenskie Stolby or Lena Pillars
- Petroglyphs, ancient writings on the pillars
- Walking on sand dunes or tukkulans
- Bird watching at Buotama
- Diring-Yuryakh, site of Paleolithic finds
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