Lena (river)

Coordinates: 72°24′31″N 126°41′05″E / 72.4087°N 126.6847°E / 72.4087; 126.6847
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The Lena Pillars along the river near Yakutsk
Lena watershed
Native name
Physical characteristics
SourceBaikal Mountains
 • locationKachugsky District, Irkutsk Oblast
 • coordinates53°58′3″N 107°52′56″E / 53.96750°N 107.88222°E / 53.96750; 107.88222 (approximately)
 • elevation1,640 m (5,380 ft)
MouthLena Delta
 • location
Arctic Ocean, Laptev Sea
 • coordinates
72°24′31″N 126°41′05″E / 72.4087°N 126.6847°E / 72.4087; 126.6847
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)
Length4,294 km (2,668 mi)
Basin size2,460,742 km2 (950,098 sq mi) to 2,490,000 km2 (960,000 sq mi)
 • maximum10,000 m (33,000 ft)
 • maximum28 m (92 ft)
 • locationKyusyur, Russia (Basin size: 2,440,000 km2 (940,000 sq mi) to 2,418,974 km2 (933,971 sq mi)[1]
 • average(Period of data: 1971-2015)17,773 m3/s (627,600 cu ft/s)[1]

(Period of data: 1970-1999)17,067 m3/s (602,700 cu ft/s)[2]

15,500 m3/s (550,000 cu ft/s)[3]
 • minimum366 m3/s (12,900 cu ft/s)
 • maximum241,000 m3/s (8,500,000 cu ft/s)

Lena Delta, Laptev Sea, Russia (Period of data: 1984-2018)577 km3/a (18,300 m3/s)[1]

(Period of data: 1940-2019) 545.7 km3/a (17,290 m3/s)[4]
 • locationVilyuy
 • average12,100 m3/s (430,000 cu ft/s)

Tabaga, Yakutsk (Basin size: 987,000 km2 (381,000 sq mi)

(Period of data: 1967-2017) 7,453.2 m3/s (263,210 cu ft/s)[5](max. 51,600 m3/s (1,820,000 cu ft/s))[5]
 • locationOlyokminsk
 • average4,500 m3/s (160,000 cu ft/s)
 • locationVitim
 • average1,700 m3/s (60,000 cu ft/s)
 • locationKirensk
 • average480 m3/s (17,000 cu ft/s)
Basin features
 • leftVilyuy
 • rightKirenga, Vitim, Olyokma, Aldan

The Lena (Russian: Ле́на, IPA: [ˈlʲɛnə]; Evenki: Елюенэ, Eljune; Yakut: Өлүөнэ, Ölüöne; Buryat: Зүлхэ, Zülkhe; Mongolian: Зүлгэ, Zülge) is a river (En: Helen) in the Russian Far East, and is the easternmost of the three great Siberian rivers that flow into the Arctic Ocean (the other two being the Ob and the Yenisey). The Lena is the eleventh-longest river in the world, and the longest river entirely within Russia, with a length of 4,294 km (2,668 mi) and a drainage basin of 2,490,000 km2 (960,000 sq mi).[6] Permafrost underlies most of the catchment, 77% of which is continuous.


Map including the lower course of the Lena
Map including the upper reaches of the Lena

Originating at an elevation of 1,640 meters (5,381 ft) at its source in the Baikal Mountains south of the Central Siberian Plateau, 7 kilometres (4 mi) west of Lake Baikal, the Lena flows northeast across the Lena-Angara Plateau, being joined by the Kirenga, Vitim and Olyokma. From Yakutsk it enters the Central Yakutian Lowland and flows north until joined by its right-hand tributary the Aldan and its most important left-hand tributary, the Vilyuy. After that, it bends westward and northward, flowing between the Kharaulakh Range, part of the Verkhoyansk Range, in the east and the Chekanovsky Ridge in the west. Making its way nearly due north it expands into a large delta and ends in the Laptev Sea, a division of the Arctic Ocean, south-west of the New Siberian Islands. The Lena Delta is 30,000 square kilometres (12,000 sq mi) in area,[7] being traversed by seven main branches, the most important being the Bykovsky channel, farthest east.


The area of the Lena river basin is calculated at 2,490,000 square kilometres (960,000 sq mi) and the mean annual discharge is 489 cubic kilometers per year. Gold is washed out of the sands of the Vitim and the Olyokma, and mammoth tusks have been dug out of the delta. There are numerous lakes in the floodplain of the river. Lakes Nedzheli and Ulakhan-Kyuel are the largest in the basin of the Lena.


The Kirenga flows north between the upper Lena River and Lake Baikal. The Vitim drains the area northeast of Lake Baikal. The Olyokma flows north. The Amga makes a long curve southeast and parallel to the Lena and flows into the Aldan. The Aldan also curves roughly parallel to the Lena until it turns east and flows into the Lena north of Yakutsk. The Maya, a tributary of the Aldan, drains an area almost to the Sea of Okhotsk. The T-shaped Chona-Vilyuy system drains most of the area to the west.

The main tributaries of the Lena are, from source to mouth:


Lena River from a source to Kachug
unnamed lake
Uhta 2nd
Uhta 1st
Anai River
Chanchur River
Kurungui River
Maliy Tarel
Ice bridge
Birulka River
Bolshoi Kosogol
Bolshiye Goly

It is commonly believed that the Lena derives its name from the original Even-Evenk name Elyu-Ene, which means "the Large River".

The river around 1890

According to folktales related a century later, in the years 1620–1623 a party of Russian fur hunters under the leadership of Demid Pyanda sailed up Nizhnyaya Tunguska, discovered the Lena, and either carried their boats there or built new ones. In 1623 Pyanda explored some 2,400 kilometres (1,500 mi) of the river from its upper reaches to the central Yakutia.[8] In 1628 Vasily Bugor and 10 men reached the Lena, collected 'yasak' (tribute) from the 'natives' and then founded Kirinsk in 1632. In 1631 the voyevoda of Yeniseysk sent Pyotr Beketov and 20 men to construct a fortress at Yakutsk (founded in 1632). From Yakutsk other expeditions spread out to the south and east. The Lena delta was reached in 1633.

Two of the three groups of survivors of the ill-fated Jeannette expedition reached Lena Delta in September, 1881. The one led by engineer George W. Melville was rescued by native Tungus huntsmen. Of the group led by Captain George W. De Long, only two of the men survived; the others died of starvation.

Baron Eduard Von Toll, accompanied by Alexander von Bunge, led an expedition that explored the Lena delta and the islands of New Siberia on behalf of the Russian Imperial Academy of Sciences in 1885. In 1886 they investigated the New Siberian Islands and the Yana River and its tributaries. During one year and two days the expedition covered 25,000 kilometres (16,000 mi), of which 4,200 kilometres (2,600 mi) were up rivers, carrying out geodesic surveys en route.

The Lena massacre was the name given to the 1912 shooting-down of striking goldminers and local citizens who protested at the working conditions in the mine near Bodaybo in northern Irkutsk. The incident was reported in the Duma (parliament) by Kerensky and is credited with stimulating revolutionary feeling in Russia.

Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov may have taken his alias, Lenin, from the river Lena, when he was exiled to the Central Siberian Plateau.


Lena River Delta in Autumn 2014
Lena river Delta by Landsat, February 2000

At the end of the Lena River there is a large delta that extends 100 kilometres (62 mi) into the Laptev Sea and is about 400 km (250 mi) wide. The delta is frozen tundra for about seven months of the year, but in May the region is transformed into a lush wetland for a few months. Part of the area is protected as the Lena Delta Wildlife Reserve.

The Lena delta divides into a multitude of flat islands. The most important are (from west to east): Chychas Aryta, Petrushka, Sagastyr, Samakh Ary Diyete, Turkan Bel'keydere, Sasyllakh Ary, Kolkhoztakh Bel'keydere, Grigoriy Diyelyakh Bel'kee (Grigoriy Islands), Nerpa Uolun Aryta, Misha Bel'keydere, Atakhtay Bel'kedere, Arangastakh, Urdiuk Pastakh Bel'key, Agys Past' Aryta, Dallalakh Island, Otto Ary, Ullakhan Ary and Orto Ues Aryta.

Turukannakh-Kumaga is a long and narrow island off the Lena delta's western shore.

One of the Lena delta islands, Ostrov Amerika-Kuba-Aryta or Ostrov Kuba-Aryta, was named after the island of Cuba during Soviet times. It is on the northern edge of the delta.[9]

Further reading[edit]

  • Alexander von Bunge & Eduard von Toll (1887), The Expedition to the New Siberian Islands and the Yana country, equipped by the Imperial Academy of Sciences.
  • Jeffrey Tayler (2006), River of No Reprieve: Descending Siberia's Waterway of Exile, Death, and Destiny

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Stadnyk, Tricia A.; Tefs, A.; Broesky, M.; Déry, S. J.; Myers, P. G.; Ridenour, N. A.; Koenig, K.; Vonderbank, L.; Gustafsson, D. (2021). "Changing freshwater contributions to the Arctic". Elementa: Science of the Anthropocene. 9. doi:10.1525/elementa.2020.00098. S2CID 236682638.
  2. ^ "Variations of the Present-Day Annual and Seasonal Runoff in the Far East and Siberia with the Use of Regional Hydrological and Global Climate Models" (PDF). 2018.
  3. ^ http://www.abratsev.narod.ru/biblio/sokolov/p1ch23b.html, Sokolov, Eastern Siberia // Hydrography of USSR. (in russian)
  4. ^ "River Discharge".
  5. ^ a b Gautier, Emmanuèle; Dépret, Thomas; Cavero, Julien; Costard, François; Virmoux, Clément; Fedorov, Alexander; Konstantinov, Pavel; Jammet, Maël; Brunstein, Daniel (2021). "HAL". Science of the Total Environment. 783: 147020. doi:10.1016/j.scitotenv.2021.147020. PMID 34088165. S2CID 234836524.
  6. ^ "Река Лена in the State Water Register of Russia". textual.ru (in Russian).
  7. ^ "Lena River Delta - A Global Ecoregion". World Wide Fund for Nature. 2006-07-06. Archived from the original on 2007-06-30. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  8. ^ "Открытие русскими Средней и Восточной Сибири". www.randewy.ru. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  9. ^ "Google Maps". Google Maps. Retrieved 4 April 2018.

External links[edit]