UNIQUE OBJECTS
All
Nature
History and culture
Nature
Nature
1. Koyashskoye lake
This amazing lake lies in the Kerch steppe not far from the Opuk Mountain. Several times a year the lake changes its color to pale pink. As biologists explain, the color changes because of the bacteria that turn reddish during the hot periods of the year as well as because of the microscopic single-celled algae Dunaliella and crustaceans Artemia.


When the heat peaks, everything dries out and rocks and steppe plants get covered with salt crystals. The magical pink mirror-like surface of the lake is complete with an incredible landscape of salt icebergs and solid stones. A sandy isthmus separates the azure sea from the bright pink lake, creating an amazing contrast.


The surface area of the lake is 500 hectares and its average depth hardly reaches 1 meter.


There is an abundance of mud rich in minerals and micro-elements in the basin of the lake.
The lake mud is considered to be healing as it contains potassium, iodine, bromine, boron, arsenic, antimony, mercury and even gold.
However, it is prohibited to extract the mud and use it for wellness treatments on the territory of the nature reserve.
2. Stone Ships
The Opuk Mountain commands a magnificent view of four small stone islands rising more than 20 meters above the sea. The islands are called Elken-Kaya Stone Ships. This Turkic name unites all four islands, however, each of them also has its own name: Elken-Kaya, Karaviya, Petra-Karaviya and Elchan-Kaya. Apparently one of the rocks gave the name to the whole group.

In the past, some scientists believed the islands to be the ruins of a land bridge that connected Crimea to the Caucasus. Others supposed that those were the remains of an ancient volcano. The famous geologist and explorer of the Kerch Peninsula Nikolai Andrusov put an end to the dispute by proving that the rocks had been separated from the Opuk Mountain.
2. Stone Ships
The Opuk Mountain commands a magnificent view of four small stone islands rising more than 20 meters above the sea. The islands are called Elken-Kaya Stone Ships. This Turkic name unites all four islands, however, each of them also has its own name: Elken-Kaya, Karaviya, Petra-Karaviya and Elchan-Kaya. Apparently one of the rocks gave the name to the whole group.

In the past, some scientists believed the islands to be the ruins of a land bridge that connected Crimea to the Caucasus. Others supposed that those were the remains of an ancient volcano. The famous geologist and explorer of the Kerch Peninsula Nikolai Andrusov put an end to the dispute by proving that the rocks had been separated from the Opuk Mountain.
Of course, a lot of beautiful legends were composed about this picturesque place.
One of them tells about an old fisherman, his son, their beloved woman and an escape beyond the three seas. It tells us how in a sea chase the angry father overcomes the hurricane and shouts to his son: "Come to your senses! You are in love with your mother". The rocks that look like ships appeared right where the father almost caught up with his son.
Another legend narrates about two sisters. In ancient times they seized power and enslaved the local population. The sisters were stopped by a wise man who turned them into hoopoes and their ships into rocks.
3. The canyon of rosy starlings or the Big Wall
The canyon of rosy starlings is located to the south of the summit plateau of the Opuk Mountain. The maximum height of the cliffs here is around 50 meters. The canyon is at its best from May 15 to July 15. This is the time when rare rosy starlings sporadically visit it. Starlings form colonies in the niches of the southern steep macroslope and create amazing living pictures right on the Big Wall.
4. The Yubileynaya Cave
There is a karst cavern in the medium part of the dyke, located in the center of the middle plateau of the Opuk Mountain. The cavern is 33 meters deep, which is an absolute record for the Kerch Peninsula and for the plains of Crimea. In the upper part of the Yubileynaya Cave, there is a seismic karst dyke section where the large limestone blocks have collapsed. A cave passage starts at the south wall. The passage is up to 60 degrees steep and goes down for 15 meters. The lower wall of the passage is composed of rockfall material. The upper wall consists of bed-rock bryozoan limestones dissected by a vertical crack, in which the mine lies.
4. The Yubileynaya Cave
There is a karst cavern in the medium part of the dyke, located in the center of the middle plateau of the Opuk Mountain. The cavern is 33 meters deep, which is an absolute record for the Kerch Peninsula and for the plains of Crimea. In the upper part of the Yubileynaya Cave, there is a seismic karst dyke section where the large limestone blocks have collapsed. A cave passage starts at the south wall. The passage is up to 60 degrees steep and goes down for 15 meters. The lower wall of the passage is composed of rockfall material. The upper wall consists of bed-rock bryozoan limestones dissected by a vertical crack, in which the mine lies.
5. The Kyrk-Chokrak spring
In the limestones of the Opuk Mountain, there is a wide network of cracks and karst cavities filled with underground water. It was one of the key factors that determined the development of this particular area in ancient times. There are more than 10 wells on the south and south-east slopes of the Opuk Mountain. The wells and capped springs are unique Cimmerian hydro-technical objects.

The Kyrk-Chokrak spring is located approximately 30 meters above sea level. The temperature of the fresh water in it is 13°C and the yield is 12 liters per minute. The visitors can take a look at the internal structure of the ancient water intake system right in the gallery of the capped spring. The water flows out of a 30-meter long tunnel and enters a pool lined with limestone tiles.
5. The Kyrk-Chokrak spring
In the limestones of the Opuk Mountain, there is a wide network of cracks and karst cavities filled with underground water. It was one of the key factors that determined the development of this particular area in ancient times. There are more than 10 wells on the south and south-east slopes of the Opuk Mountain. The wells and capped springs are unique Cimmerian hydro-technical objects.

The Kyrk-Chokrak spring is located approximately 30 meters above sea level. The temperature of the fresh water in it is 13°C and the yield is 12 liters per minute. The visitors can take a look at the internal structure of the ancient water intake system right in the gallery of the capped spring. The water flows out of a 30-meter long tunnel and enters a pool lined with limestone tiles.
History and culture
History and culture
1. The ancient city Kimmerikon (6th century B.C. — 4th century A.D.)
The ruins of the ancient city Kimmerikon are located on the southwestern coastal slope of the Opuk Mountain and extend for approximately 5 hectares. Kimmerikon is an ancient city that was founded on the southern coast of the Kerch Peninsula at the cusp of the 6th and the 5th centuries B.C. and existed until the beginning of the 4th century A.D. Kimmerikon united with other polises to form the Bosporan Kingdom around 480 B.C. The city defended the Bosporan Kingdom from the Scythians and its walls were up to 2,5-3,5 meters thick. In the middle of the 3rd century A.D., Kimmerikon was ravaged by Goths but the city survived until the end of the Roman Empire.

Kimmerikon was discovered and explored by Soviet archaeologists in 1927, 1947-49 and 1950-51. At the moment, the ancient city Kimmerikon is an archaeological monument of federal significance.
2. The Citadel (4th century A.D.)
The Citadel fortress occupies the eastern edge of the Opuk Mountain summit plateau at an altitude of 165-170 meters above sea level. The fortress is a monument to the Bosporus fortification and belongs to the Late Classical, Hellenistic and Late Antiquity periods. The Citadel complex consists of curtain walls, a bastion tower, internal buildings which include the barracks, an ash pit, and a defensive wall along the watershed of the eastern slope of the mountain.
2. The Citadel (4th century A.D.)
The Citadel fortress occupies the eastern edge of the Opuk Mountain summit plateau at an altitude of 165-170 meters above sea level. The fortress is a monument to the Bosporus fortification and belongs to the Late Classical, Hellenistic and Late Antiquity periods. The Citadel complex consists of curtain walls, a bastion tower, internal buildings which include the barracks, an ash pit, and a defensive wall along the watershed of the eastern slope of the mountain.
3. The catacombs and quarries
The old quarries are located in the east of the summit plateau of the Opuk Mountain. Other quarries can be found to the south and southwest from them. Their total area is 2 hectares. You can find the places where limestones used to be cut at the top of the rock outcrop. The quarries have long been abandoned and are now inhabited by bats.
3. The catacombs and quarries
The old quarries are located in the east of the summit plateau of the Opuk Mountain. Other quarries can be found to the south and southwest from them. Their total area is 2 hectares. You can find the places where limestones used to be cut at the top of the rock outcrop. The quarries have long been abandoned and are now inhabited by bats.
4. The "A" Hill
The archaeological evidence shows that the development of the Opuk Mountain took place in the Late Bronze Age. The sites of this age were found in five different spots on the territory of the mountain and its surroundings. The Bronze Age layers underlie the cultural strata of Kimmerikon city and the "A" Hill early ancient settlement located on the southern coastal slope of the mountain.

The artifacts collected in these settlements include pieces of crockery, flint tools, cult objects and bones of domestic and wild animals. The inhabitants of these settlements were engaged in cattle breeding, fishing and primitive agriculture. The settlements had been abandoned even before the Greek colonization took place. Apparently, this was due to the migrations of the early Scythians in Eastern Crimea.

The "A" Hill settlement was partially destroyed by a landslide.
Kimmerikon was founded in an area with difficult geological conditions and didn't develop proper urban infrastructure, as opposed to other Bosporan cities that were located in plain areas.
The questions why small towns were founded in the European Bosporus and what the dynamics was are still open for discussion.
There's no doubt that the territory of the reserve is of a great scientific interest.
5. Ancient and early medieval settlements
Kirkoyashskaya basin early ancient settlements (5th century B.C. ― 7th-9th centuries A.D.)

The settlements are located on the eastern slope of the valley and on the southeastern slope of the basin to the south from the Mountain Ostraya, closer to the northern border of the nature reserve. Unfortified ancient settlements consisted of separate groups of households. There are traces of these settlements in the coastal area and other more remote parts of the region.

The settlement located in the surroundings of the Koyashskoye salt lake (4th-3rd centuries B.C.) belongs to the ancient and early medieval periods.

The late ancient settlement (1st/2nd ― 4th centuries A.D.) occupies the southern slope of the Opuk Mountain. The lower tier of the Opuk quarries lies right below.
5. Ancient and early medieval settlements
Kirkoyashskaya basin early ancient settlements (5th century B.C. ― 7th-9th centuries A.D.)

The settlements are located on the eastern slope of the valley and on the southeastern slope of the basin to the south from the Mountain Ostraya, closer to the northern border of the nature reserve. Unfortified ancient settlements consisted of separate groups of households. There are traces of these settlements in the coastal area and other more remote parts of the region.

The settlement located in the surroundings of the Koyashskoye salt lake (4th-3rd centuries B.C.) belongs to the ancient and early medieval periods.

The late ancient settlement (1st/2nd ― 4th centuries A.D.) occupies the southern slope of the Opuk Mountain. The lower tier of the Opuk quarries lies right below.
6. The Chebakskaya balka settlement (5th century B.C — 4th-3rd centuries B.C.)
The earliest ancient settlements were found between the Opuk Mountain and the Yakovenkovo village, along the Chebakskaya Balka (valley) and the eastern borders of the nature reserve. These settlements are usually unfortified and consist of separate groups of households.

The amphora fragments (6th -— 5th centuries B.C.) found in this area allow us to presume that the development of the coastal part of the region was taking place simultaneously with the foundation of Kimmerikon. The Opuk Mountain, its coastal part all the way to the Kyzaul lighthouse and more distant surroundings including the valleys of Kirkoyashskoye and Koyashskoye lakes and the Priozernaya mountain were developed in the 5th century B.C. The rest of the settlements found in the surroundings of the Opuk Mountain date back to the late 5th — early 4th centuries B.C.
6. The Chebakskaya balka settlement (5th century B.C — 4th-3rd centuries B.C.)
The earliest ancient settlements were found between the Opuk Mountain and the Yakovenkovo village, along the Chebakskaya Balka (valley) and the eastern borders of the nature reserve. These settlements are usually unfortified and consist of separate groups of households.

The amphora fragments (6th -— 5th centuries B.C.) found in this area allow us to presume that the development of the coastal part of the region was taking place simultaneously with the foundation of Kimmerikon. The Opuk Mountain, its coastal part all the way to the Kyzaul lighthouse and more distant surroundings including the valleys of Kirkoyashskoye and Koyashskoye lakes and the Priozernaya mountain were developed in the 5th century B.C. The rest of the settlements found in the surroundings of the Opuk Mountain date back to the late 5th — early 4th centuries B.C.
7. The settlement above the spring (7th — 9th centuries A.D.)
There is an early medieval monument in the basin-like valley of the southern slope of the Opuk Mountain. It is one of the biggest Saltovo-Mayaki settlements on the Kerch Peninsula.
The proportion of game, poultry and grape snails significantly increases in the layers dated the 1st century B.C. ― 1st century A.D. These products were used as a source of food protein. This might be a sign of economic struggles of the population and a difficult political situation in Bosporus at that time. Between the 2nd — 3rd centuries A.D. and the 4th — 6th centuries Kimmerikon was the frontier fortress and its surroundings were inhabited by federate barbarians. The number of horses, dogs and small cattle increased considerably during this period.
In the later centuries, the area had almost been abandoned up until the appearance of the Tatar villages at the foot of the Opuk Mountain. However, it is quite possible that during the 9th — 12th centuries there were some small cattle-breeding households on the western slope of the mountain, right where Kimmerikon used to be.
7. The settlement above the spring (7th — 9th centuries A.D.)
There is an early medieval monument in the basin-like valley of the southern slope of the Opuk Mountain. It is one of the biggest Saltovo-Mayaki settlements on the Kerch Peninsula.

The proportion of game, poultry and grape snails significantly increases in the layers dated the 1st century B.C. ― 1st century A.D. These products were used as a source of food protein. This might be a sign of economic struggles of the population and a difficult political situation in Bosporus at that time. Between the 2nd — 3rd centuries A.D. and the 4th — 6th centuries Kimmerikon was the frontier fortress and its surroundings were inhabited by federate barbarians. The number of horses, dogs and small cattle increased considerably during this period.

In the later centuries, the area had almost been abandoned up until the appearance of the Tatar villages at the foot of the Opuk Mountain. However, it is quite possible that during the 9th — 12th centuries there were some small cattle-breeding households on the western slope of the mountain, right where Kimmerikon used to be.
8. The manor house in the Vostochnaya Bay (7th — 9th centuries A.D.)
The remains of the rural estate dated the 9th — the first half of the 10th century were found in the Vostochnaya Bay basin. The monument covers half of a hectare and includes a well, residential and household buildings. An ancient road with a limestone retaining wall is particularly interesting.
8. The manor house in the Vostochnaya Bay (7th — 9th centuries A.D.)
The remains of the rural estate dated the 9th — the first half of the 10th century were found in the Vostochnaya Bay basin. The monument covers half of a hectare and includes a well, residential and household buildings. An ancient road with a limestone retaining wall is particularly interesting.
9. The medieval anchorage at the Stone Ships (Elken-Kaya) (8th — 13th centuries)
In the Black Sea, 2 km south-west from the Opuk Mountain, there are isolated rocks that are certainly dangerous for sailors nowadays and were so in antiquity. Free divers from the Y. Danilevsky's group discovered the "anchor cemetery" in these waters in the middle of the 1970-s. They found ancient stone and lead, medieval iron and modern anchors. Some fragments of the ancient anchors were lifted from the seafloor and then exhibited in Yalta.

In 1981, divers from the Poisk Club (Leningrad, now Saint-Petersburg) together with military hydrographers found amphora fragments, a conglomerate piece of an iron anchor form and a lead beam of an ancient wooden anchor 350 meters south from the rocks. The beam weighed about 30 kg and had a box frame in the middle. They took the beam to Leningrad and displayed it at the club museum.
9. The medieval anchorage at the Stone Ships (Elken-Kaya) (8th — 13th centuries)
In the Black Sea, 2 km south-west from the Opuk Mountain, there are isolated rocks that are certainly dangerous for sailors nowadays and were so in antiquity. Free divers from the Y. Danilevsky's group discovered the "anchor cemetery" in these waters in the middle of the 1970-s. They found ancient stone and lead, medieval iron and modern anchors. Some fragments of the ancient anchors were lifted from the seafloor and then exhibited in Yalta.

In 1981, divers from the Poisk Club (Leningrad, now Saint-Petersburg) together with military hydrographers found amphora fragments, a conglomerate piece of an iron anchor form and a lead beam of an ancient wooden anchor 350 meters south from the rocks. The beam weighed about 30 kg and had a box frame in the middle. They took the beam to Leningrad and displayed it at the club museum.
10. The monument to military topographers Demyan Vyzhull and Vladimir Mospan (29.12.1941)
On the western slope of the Opuk Mountain, there is a monument to military topographers who died on the Elken-Kaya Island during World War II. They helped the amphibious troops carry out the landings. For many years the monument had remained nameless and the memorial plaque describing the feat of the heroes was installed only in 2010.

There was a battle between the 3rd battalion of the 95th border regiment and the offensive German-Romanian troops (Operation Bustard Hunt) on the causeway separating the lakes Koyashskoe and Uzunlarskoe on May 13, 1942. More than 150 frontier guards died in that battle. It is likely that the soldiers were buried in that very place.
11. The abandoned lighthouse
The lighthouse was built as a film set in 2018. The nature reserve kept the building and now uses it as a spot for marine mammals observation.
11. The abandoned lighthouse
The lighthouse was built as a film set in 2018. The nature reserve kept the building and now uses it as a spot for marine mammals observation.
Photos used on this site belong to (photo credits): S. Ledenkov, I. Sikorsky, L. Moroz, V. Kostrov, N. Litvinyuk, D. Rutyanov, S. Alyomov, M. Atamanenko, G. Prokopov, D. Voinov, Y. Timofeev, Y. Shumlyaeva, M. Rozanov, V. Anzylov, V. Zyuzin, A. Gromov, Y. Zhuravleva, E. Nekadimova, N. Krymsky, K. Polyanskaya, A. Rybintsev, A. Mishin, A. Dmitrieva and naturerussia.travel
Photos used on this site belong to (photo credits): S. Ledenkov, I. Sikorsky, L. Moroz, V. Kostrov, N. Litvinyuk, D. Rutyanov, S. Alyomov, M. Atamanenko, G. Prokopov, D. Voinov, Y. Timofeev, Y. Shumlyaeva, M. Rozanov, V. Anzylov, V. Zyuzin, A. Gromov, Y. Zhuravleva, E. Nekadimova, N. Krymsky, K. Polyanskaya, A. Rybintsev, A. Mishin, A. Dmitrieva and naturerussia.travel
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