About Samarskaya Luka and Zhigulevsk Mountains: Samarskaya Luka

Samarskaya Luka National Park (reserve) is in the immediate vicinity of the city of Samara. It acquired its name from a big bend of the river Volga, which it makes near Samara. This river bend begins near the city of Togliatti and ends at the village Perevoloki, where the neck between the two riverbeds is only 2 kilometers.

Within the bend of the river Volga is the territory of 150 thousand hectares. In the 80th of the past century all this territory was declared a reserve. Most part of the Samarskaya Luka is wooded steppe with low hills, which may be interesting only for specialists in ornithology and zoology. The most interesting places of Samarskaya Luka are the Zhigulevsk Mountains. It is there that one can see the abandoned tunnels, where limestone was mined in the 19 century, and the most picturesque landscapes.

The easiest and most interesting way to visit the Zhigulevsk Mountains at the Samarskaya Luka is a trip to the village Shiryaevo. Having crossed the dam of the Volga GES (hydroelectric power station), you should turn to the left and go along the bank of the Volga. In the environs of Shiryaevo you can ascend the observation platform located close to the dumps of limestone, which had been accumulated on the slopes of the Zhigulevsk Mountains for two centuries.

From the observation platform one can see the Volga and two rocks on the opposite banks of the river, which are called the Volga Gate, and are one of the attractions of the Samarskaya Luka. On the bank there is a fairly good sand beach, which is always full of people in good weather. If you look into the territory of the reserve, you can see the rocks with characteristic holes of entrances to the abandoned tunnels.

It is considered rather dangerous to enter the tunnels of the Samarskaya Luka because of possible collapse, but everyone goes there, as you can see nothing of the kind in no other place (especially as there have never been any collapses). In different tunnels the seam of calcareous rock is up to 10-15 meters. So, the adit consists of huge passages stretching for hundreds of meters into the heart of the mountain. In the 19 century the manually extracted limestone was taken out by horse carts, which entered the adits. For protection from collapses in the adits there were cut huge pillars, giving them beautiful and even mystic appearance. As a matter of fact, the caves and galleries of the Zhigulevsk Mountains at the Samarskaya Luka have long been considered the area of anomalous phenomena, so you should be very careful when visiting the galleries and caves, especially if you want to go far into the heart of the mountain.

In Shiryaevo of the Samarskaya Luka the museum house of the painter Repin is located where he spent several summer months and began to paint his picture «Barge Haulers on the Volga», which is now kept at the Russian Museum in St. Petersburg. Repin was impressed by the hard work of barge haulers, who pulled in that region the barges loaded with calcareous rock mined at the local galleries.

After Shiryaevo there is no road for motor-cars (to be exactly, there is a road but it is closed), and those who want to go further into the Zhigulevsk Mountains of the Samarskaya Luka should do it on foot. You should do it only with a guide, especially if you want to enter the abandoned galleries. It is really unsafe, considering the number of people who were lost there.

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