Rybinsk Reservoir, Central & Northern Russia

Lake Locations:

Russia - Central - Northern -

Also known as:  Rybinsk Sea

Located in western European Russia, Rybinsk Reservoir is as large and impressive as Russia itself. Rybinsk Reservoir sits on the Volga River as part of an expansive system of canals and reservoirs connecting Moscow through St. Petersburg, all the way to the Baltic Sea. As early as the ninth century, portions of these waterways formed the historic Baltic-Volga trade route. Today, the Rybinsk Sea and waterways serve as major commercial and industrial centers for the Russian Federation and recreational centers for the country’s Northern and Central Regions.

Construction of Rybinsk Reservoir marks a dark moment in Russia’s history. As World War II approached, energy was required for the defense of Moscow. The Rybinsk Hydropower Station was built to provide that energy. Beginning in 1941, Rybinsk Reservoir started to provide hydropower while destroying hundreds of villages, monasteries and historic sites as it filled. The demand for water power was so great that Rybinsk Reservoir did not reach its final 20 billion acre-foot capacity until 1947. Today, with an average depth of 18.39 feet, the flooded villages, monasteries and forests can still be seen below the surface of Rybinsk Reservoir.

Once considered the world’s largest reservoir, the lake, also known as the Rybinsk Sea, continues to rank among the largest artificial waterways with a surface area of more than one million acres. Formed by the Rybinsk dam, Rybinsk Reservoir is part of the Volga-Kama cascade of dams. Located between the Uglich and Sheksna dams, this massive reservoir receives water from 64 different rivers and sits in the territories of Yaroslavl, Vologda and Tver Oblasts. The major tributaries — Volga, Mologa and Sheksna — divide Rybinsk Reservoir into four parts: the Volga Reach, Sheksna Reach, Mologa Reach, and Main Reach.

The modern Volga-Baltic Waterway, formerly known as the Mariinsk Canal System, starts at Rybinsk Reservoir. As part of this extensive chain of reservoirs, locks and dams, Rybinsk Reservoir has had a major impact on the habitat of fish and other water life. At one time, the Volga served as the migration and spawning route for almost 90% of the world’s sturgeon. Today they have all but disappeared from the rivers feeding Rybinsk Reservoir.

A second threat to the habitat of fish and wildlife is farm runoff and pollution from industrial cities that dot the reservoir’s shoreline. The impact of dams and pollution on fisheries, water quality and tourism has not escaped the attention of the Russian people. Because Rybinsk Reservoir serves as a main source of drinking water, water quality issues are being addressed. Commercial sturgeon fishing has been banned along the Volga and Rybinsk Reservoir rivers to protect the prized beluga sturgeon. A tourism development plan implemented by Russia’s Ministry of Economic Development and Trade in coordination with Moscow’s Tourism Committee has brought an increase in tourists from Europe and the United States.

To see the Volga basin and Rybinsk Reservoir is to see Russia’s rich cultural heritage. With a length of more than 300 miles, the Volga-Baltic Waterway is best seen by boat. Popular with both national and international travelers, river-cruise lines sail Rybinsk Reservoir as they move from the museums of Moscow to the great art and architecture of St. Petersburg.

For those who prefer land accommodations, fishing camps and vacation rentals (often called holiday accommodations) can be found around Rybinsk Reservoir. Recreational opportunities include hunting in the surrounding pine forests, boating on the expansive Rybinsk Sea and fishing along the islands, channels and bays that form along the waterway. Forty-six fish species can be found in Rybinsk Reservoir, including large zander (related to the walleye), bream, small pike-perch and Caspian kilka.

More than 60 million people live along the Volga River and over 500,000 people live around Rybinsk Reservoir in the cities of Cherepovets, Vesyegonsk and Rybinsk. Their tragic history can be seen beneath the shallow depths of Rybinsk Reservoir but their promising future is seen above the surface where culture, commerce and recreation thrive.

Things to do at Rybinsk Reservoir

  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum

Fish species found at Rybinsk Reservoir

  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pike Perch
  • Sturgeon
  • Walleye
  • Zander

Rybinsk Reservoir Photo Gallery

    Rybinsk Reservoir Statistics & Helpful Links

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    Lake Type: Artificial Reservoir, Dammed

    Surface Area: 1,124,329 acres

    Shoreline Length: 1,336 miles

    Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 335 feet

    Average Depth: 18 feet

    Maximum Depth: 100 feet

    Water Volume: 20,592,115 acre-feet

    Completion Year: 1947

    Drainage Area: 58,108 sq. miles

    Trophic State: Mesotrophic

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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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    Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

    This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

    Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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    Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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    Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

    This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

    Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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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.

    You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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    Average Depth | LakeLubbers

    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:

    Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

    Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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    Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    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.

    At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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    Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

    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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    Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

    This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

    You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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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.

    You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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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.

    "Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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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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