The Volga River delta is the largest in Europe, draining into the Caspian Sea approximately 60 km. downstream from the city of Astrakhan. During the 20th century changes in the level of the Caspian Sea have led to a significant increase in the delta’s size. In 1880 the delta’s area was 3,222 km²; today the delta covers 27,224 km² and is 160 km. wide. It has a classical “delta” shape.
The Volga delta lies in an arid climate zone and is a natural oasis. Strong winds often blow across the delta and form linear dunes. The change in level of the Caspian Sea has resulted in the formation of “Baer’s Mounds,” named after Karl Ernst von Baer, who conducted research in this region. These mounds are linear ridges of clayey sands, ranging in length from 400 meters to 10 km. and having heights between 5 and 22 meters. In between the Baer’s Mounds are depressions which fill with water and become either freshwater or saline bays, called ilmens. They were formed as part of the early deep river delta but eventually became separated from it. In the north of the Astrakhan region are found other unique natural features: Big Bogdo Mountain and saline Lake Baskunchak.
The Volga Delta is an important area for numerous migratory bird species. In spring and autumn millions of birds stop here to rest. It is a true “paradise” for scientific ornithologists and birdwatchers from all over the world. Here you can see birds that are very rare and included in the Red book.
Astrakhan Nature Reserve
Astrakhan Nature Reserve is one of Russia’s oldest, established in 1919. It is located in the estuary of the country’s greatest river – the Volga. Its territory also includes a small aquatic area in the Caspian Sea.
The reserve provides habitat for some 200 avian species, and many migratory birds stop here, including rare white cranes. In the river’s lower reaches can be found the nests of cattle egrets, pelicans and white cranes, all three of which are listed in Russia’s Red Book. The reserve organizes ornithological tours.
Astrakhan Nature Reserve is a UNESCO international biosphere reserve and includes part of the Volga estuary, a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance.