Pribaikalsky National Park was established in 1986 to preserve the unique natural systems of Lake Baikal, to conduct researches and develop recreational and educational projects. The park encompasses the land along the western bank of Lake Baikal, from the village Kultuk to the Kheiren River, including entire Olkhon Island.
The park is located in the dry valley parts of the bottom of the Baikal basin, on the northwest slopes of the basin, partially including the watershed parts of the surrounding ridges.
The park’s terrain offers a great variety of forms and is greatly divided, with relatively small variations in absolute elevation (less than 900 m).
The area is characterized by a mild continental climate with the greatest amount of precipitation found in this region. Average January temperatures are -18°C or below; average July and August temperatures are +11° +14°C. Overall, climatic conditions vary greatly in the lake basin.
Flora and Fauna
The distribution of the vegetation cover in the park depends on elevation. The predominant flora is typical of the continental belt. The other belts found in the park include steppe (absolute elevations of 500–700 m), primarily represented by plant communities with several species of grain predominating; forest-steppe forests of common pine and larch are confined to the bank areas and the lower mountain belt; subtaiga pine forests form the lower part of the forest belt, the large mountain-taiga forests of common pine and larch; mountain-taiga forests of Siberian stone pine; sub-bald peak forests of Siberian stone pine and the pine Pinus pumila.
In all, 76 plants found in the park are considered rare or are protected species, and the Red Data Book of Russia includes 20 species, among them mushrooms, lichens and mosses and plants that are endemic to Baikal’s shores, such as Astragalus olchonensis, the perennial Hedysarum zundukii, Deschampsia turczaninowii and the shrub Cotoneaster lucidus and others.
Endemic and ancient plats of Lake Baikal are Oxytropis triphylla, the perennial Hedysarum cisbaicalense and Corydalis impatients, along with several types of mushrooms.
The fauna of the southwestern and western areas of the Baikal region is notable for its great variety that is largely the result of the fact that many of the animals found here are living on the edge of their geographic range. In all, 380 vertebrates have been recorded in the park: 59 mammals, 272 birds, six reptiles, three amphibians and 40 types of fish.
Common animals include brown bear, moose, red deer and wild goat. Typical Siberian fauna: Russia flying squirrel, chipmunk, large-toothed redback vole, sable, muskdeer, Siberian jay and others.
A wintering site for water-borne birds that is unique for Eastern Siberia has formed in the non-freezing part of the Angara river outlet. Birds found here include golden eye (Bucephala clangula), tufted duck (Aythya fuligula) and scaup (A. marila), long-tailed duck (Clangula hyemalis), smew (Mergus albellus), red-breasted merganser (M. serrator). Goosander (M. merganser) and common mallard (Anas platyrhynchos). The total number of wintering water-borne birds reaches more than 10 thousand in some years.
The park is home to 75 species of rare animals; many of these are endemic to the Baikal region and have been registered in the Russian Red Data Book.
54 nature monuments (geological, aquatic or hydrological, botanical, zoological, natural complexes) are situated on the territory of the park. Geological monuments include the Ulan-Nur Promontory and the Shaman Stone. The promontory is a solid mass composed of rare and unique minerals – 120 different minerals have been found here. Shaman stone (Shaman kamen) is the most popular and most legendary site at Lake Baikal, a tiny island in the outlet of the Angara River and the only above-water protuberance in the Angara rapids.
The botanical monuments are the Muzhestvo Zhizni cedars and the ancient spruces of Olkhon Island. Both of these sites are botanical mysteries and they are objects of scientific studies.
Ptichy Bazar Cliff – Bird Bazaar Cliff, one of the zoological monuments, is the only site in Baikal where herring gulls nest on vertical cliffs.
Historical attractions at the park include the well-known Krugobaikalskaya Railroad around the Baikal Lake, a monument of history and engineering.
There are several tourist routs in the park, including 100-km hike along the Primorsky Ridge; five-day hikes across 40-50 km of the park; four-day cruises with a stay at the Kadilnaya tourist base. The routs take tourists to the village of Listvyanka, the Baikal Ecological Museum, the Museum of Ancient Architecture, the Kadilnaya, Peschanaya and Khargino bays.
based on National Parks of Russia Guidebook 1997