The Angara River at Irkutsk
|Length||1,779 km (1,105 mi)|
|⁃ average||4,530 m3/s (160,000 cu ft/s)|
The Angara River (Buryat and Mongolian: , Angar, lit. "Cleft"; Russian: ?, Angará) is a 1,779-kilometer-long (1,105 mi) river in Siberia, which traces a course through Russia's Irkutsk Oblast and Krasnoyarsk Krai. It is the river that drains Lake Baikal and is the headwater tributary of the Yenisei River. It was formerly known as the Lower or Nizhnyaya Angara (distinguishing it from the Upper Angara). Below its junction with the Ilim, it was formerly known as the Upper Tunguska (Russian: ? , Verkhnyaya Tunguska, distinguishing it from the Lower Tunguska) and, with the names reversed, as the Lower Tunguska.
Leaving Lake Baikal near the settlement of Listvyanka (at ), the Angara flows north past the Irkutsk Oblast cities of Irkutsk, Angarsk, Bratsk, and Ust-Ilimsk. It then turns west, enters the Krasnoyarsk Krai, and joins the Yenisei near Strelka (at , 40 kilometres (25 mi) south-east of Lesosibirsk).
Four dams of major hydroelectric plants - constructed since the 1950s - exploit the waters of the Angara:
The reservoirs of these dams flooded a number of villages along the Angara and its tributaries (including the historic fort of Ilimsk on the Ilim), as well as numerous agricultural areas in the river valley. Due to its effects on the way of life of the rural residents of the Angara valley, dam construction was criticized by a number of Soviet intellectuals, in particular by the Irkutsk writer Valentin Rasputin - both in his novel Farewell to Matyora (1976) and in his non-fiction book Siberia, Siberia (1991).
The section between the Ust-Ilimsk Dam and the Boguchany Dam has not been navigable due to rapids. However, with the completion of the Boguchany Dam, and filling of its reservoir, at least part of this section of the river will become navigable as well. Nonetheless, this will not enable through navigation from Lake Baikal to the Yenisei, as none of the existing three dams has been provided with a ship lock or a boat lift, nor will the Boguchany Dam have one.
Despite the absence of a continuous navigable waterway, the Angara and its tributary the Ilim were of considerable importance for Russian colonization of Siberia since ca. 1630, when they (and the necessary portages) formed important water routes connecting the Yenisey with Lake Baikal and the Lena River. The river lost its transportation significance after the construction of an overland route between Krasnoyarsk and Irkutsk and, later, the Trans-Siberian Railway.