Kuril lake is one of the bigger spawning grounds of salmon not just in Kamchatka, but overall in the world. Only one river – Ozernaya – takes off from this lake and connects it to the Sea of Okhotsk. It is up Ozernaya that red salmon comes into the lake. Duringtherunthewaterlookslikeitisboiling, thisisanawesome sight! The numbers of the red salmon that comes into the lake for spawning can reach the 8-million mark in certain years.
Such abundance of fish, naturally, attracts bears to the lake shores. Thesepredators usually avoid one another, but during salmon spawning they gather together by the lake. At any one time it is possible to observe up to 15-18 specimen of the largest subspecies of bears. An adult male can weigh up to 600 kilos and reach up to 260 cm in length. Bears are generally omnivores, but in Kamchatka these giants mostly feed on fish. Perhaps their preference of fish to meat is the reason they are usually less aggressive than bears on the mainland. But don’t go looking for Kamchatka bear! This is still a strong and dangerous predator.
Bears at Kuril lake have different fishing strategies. Some of them wait for the fish in the water, others fish from the shore. While fishing bears are consciously tolerant to each other, as there is enough food for everyone. However, the best fishing spots are controlled by adult males. Female bears with cubs and young males fish a little distance away.
Bears fish passionately even if they’re sated. Inthebeginning of the seasontheyeatthewholefish, and by the end they only choose the tastiest and the most nutritious parts, including caviar. Salmonhaslongbeenbear’smainfood – thebestsourceoffat, which allows it to survive the long Kamchatka winter.
There is a watch tower next to the lake, which allows people to watch bears fish and feed from a safe distance.
Kuril lake islands are also worth seeing. Heart of the Alaid is a pink heart-shaped rock with a great colony of sea-gulls. There is a legend about it, written down by Krasheninnikov himself, that goes way back in time, when people living in this area witnessed catastrophic eruptions. Kuril lake takes up the caldera that was formed after colossal explosions. Islandsare extrusionsofviscousmagma from the bottom of the caldera. According to the legend, Alaid was a high mountain that hid sun from other mountains and thus had to leave. It went to Atlasov island where it is now a volcano. River Ozernaya flowed in Alaid’s tracks as it was leaving the lake and the island – the heart of Alaid – was left in the lake as a reminder. Island Chayachiy and Samang archipelago can also be found in the Kurilskoe lake.
Georg Steller was one of the first European travelers to visit the Kuril lake. Inhisbooknamed “Description of the land of Kamchatka” he points out that the aboriginal name of the lake is Ksu, and thus, Kuril lake is the wrong name for it. This is due to the fact that local dwellers, living by the lake and its vicinity as well as on the first island were all called “Kushi”, which the Cossacks later transformed into “Kuriltsy” even though these people were really Itelmens. There is no mention of the Kuril lake in the literary sources up to the beginning of the XX century. Active studies of the lake began in 1908.
The lake, located 210 kilometers away from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky within the boundaries of the South Kamchatka sanctuary, is only accessible by helicopter. Flight time is around 1 hour 15 minutes. About 700 people visit the lake every year.