Bratsk Reservoir, Eastern Siberia, Russia

Lake Locations:

Russia - Eastern Siberia -

It has been said that one of the most striking things about Siberia is the scale. Just the name conjures images of vast snowy expanses, impossibly thick forests and incredibly high mountains. Its manmade features maintain the sense of scale, and with well over a million acres of water, Bratsk Reservoir is no exception. Sprawling across the Irkutsk Oblast in Russia, Bratsk is the largest manmade reservoir in Russia and one of the largest in the world.

An impoundment of the Angara River, Bratsk Reservoir was created by the Bratsk Dam. The dam was built for hydroelectric power, and construction started in 1954. The reservoir started filling in 1961. It wasn’t finished, however, until 1967. After completion, it was considered the largest manmade reservoir in the world, but it has since been surpassed. The Bratsk Hydroelectric Power Plant is the second of four power plants on the Angara River including Irkutsk, Ust-Ilim, and Boguchany.

Growing in response to the construction of Bratsk Reservoir, the City of Bratsk supported the workers that built the reservoir. It is a modern city of approximately 300,000 people and has all the amenities traditionally found in a city its size. There are restaurants, hotels, theaters and museums. In addition to the hydroelectric power plant, local industry includes the manufacture of aluminum. The purpose of Bratsk Reservoir was to generate power, but over the years its value for recreation has grown. The shore of the lake has rest homes, health centers, and dachas (country homes). There are also camps organized by businesses for the benefit of workers.

The City of Bratsk wasn’t the first Russian settlement in the area. Drawn by fur, timber, and minerals, the first Russians settled in eastern Siberia in the 17th century. In 1631, a group of Cossacks built a wooden fort with four towers at Padun Rapids. The fort was named Bratsk after the area’s aboriginal tribes the “Bruyats.” Two of the fort’s original towers still stood when Bratsk Reservoir was filled; one of the towers was moved to Moscow and the other tower stands on the shore of Bratsk Reservoir as an example of wooden Russian architecture. The village that grew up around the fort was the only Russian settlement on the Angara River and it stayed small and isolated until construction of the reservoir began. The village was moved to protect it from flooding.

The Angara Village Ethnographical Museum chronicles the history of the area before the construction of the reservoir. The museum opened in June of 1982 and has a Russian village and farmsteads along with a model of the 17th century fort. There is also an exhibit of an Evenk nomad camp. The Evenk were the original Siberian Natives.

Today one of the easiest and most scenic ways to travel to the area is by rail. The Baikal Amur Mainline Railroad (BAM) currently runs across the top of Bratsk Dam. Traveling parallel to the Trans-Siberian Railroad, the BAM was created as a backup for military use. BAM crosses the country and passes Lake Baikal, the world’s oldest and deepest lake. The section for Taishet to Bratsk is called the “Road of Courage” because of the difficulty workers had building it. Construction was begun in 1942, and it took 23 years to lay the rail between Taishet and Abakan. There are several railroad tours that offer visitors a chance to explore the magnificent Siberian landscape.

Siberia is a land of extremes – freezing temperatures, huge reservoirs and large stretches of land. Bratsk Reservoir is extreme in both size and importance and its recreation opportunities are growing.

Things to do at Bratsk Reservoir

  • Camping
  • Museum

Bratsk Reservoir Photo Gallery

    Bratsk Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Water Level Control: Russia Federal Government

    Surface Area: 1,351,680 acres

    Shoreline Length: 3,728 miles

    Maximum Depth: 361 feet

    Water Volume: 137,229,339 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1967

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    Trophic State | LakeLubbers

    Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

    An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

    A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

    A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

    The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

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    Completion Year | LakeLubbers

    This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

    The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

    You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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    Water Volume | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

    You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

    Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

    1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

    The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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    Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

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    This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

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    This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

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    This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

    Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

    When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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    Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

    This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

    A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

    When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

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    Surface Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

    The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

    You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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    Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

    This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

    Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

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    Lake Type | LakeLubbers

    There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

    - A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

    - A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

    - A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

    "Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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