The Ural Mountains, or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan.
They have traditionally been used on maps as the boundary between Europe and Asia although they may not be a completely accurate boundary mark.
The mountain range spans 2,500 kilometers (1,550 miles) passing through Arctic tundra to the north and through forested and semi-desert landscapes to the south.
The Urals are a narrow mountain range, at its widest point they are about 200 kilometers (125 miles) wide.
The highest point of the mountains is the peak of Mount Narodnaya, which stands at 1,894 meters (6,214 feet).
The Ural Mountains are among the world’s oldest mountains, 300 to 250 million years old, and erosion has lowered them considerably. For its age, the elevation of the mountains is unusually high.
The mountains are divided into five subsections: the southern, middle, northern, pre-polar and polar regions.
The landscapes of the Urals vary with both latitude and longitude and are dominated by forests and steppes.
Except in the polar and northern sections, the mountains are forested, and lumbering is an important industry.
The Ural Mountains are among the richest in minerals in the world and have been mined for hundreds of years. They provide coal, iron, silver, gold, platinum, lead, salt, aluminum, magnesium, diamonds and a wide range of other gemstones.
The Urals are also rich deposits oil and natural gas.
Many rivers originate in the Ural Mountains. The Ural River rises on the eastern slopes of the southern Ural Mountains in Russia. The Ural flows generally south for about 2,428 kilometers (1,509 miles) miles and enters the Caspian Sea.
The mountains contain a number of deep lakes. The eastern slopes of the Southern and Central Urals have most of these, among the largest of which are the Uvildy [photo below], Turgoyak, and Tavatuy lakes.
The composition of mountains, forests, rivers and lakes makes the Urals one of the most beautiful regions in Russia.
The climate of the Urals is continental.
The Ural forests are inhabited by animals typical of Siberia, such as elk, brown bear, fox, wolf, wolverine, lynx, squirrel, and sable (north only). Because of the easy accessibility of the mountains there are no specifically mountainous species. In the Middle Urals, one can see a rare mixture of sable and pine marten named kidus. In the Southern Urals, badger and black polecat are common. Bird species are represented by capercaillie, black grouse, hazel grouse, spotted nutcracker, and cuckoos.
Urals has famous Virgin Komi Forests, which were included to the World Heritage List. At 32,800 square kilometers it is the largest in Europe.
Visim Nature Reserve is a treasure trove of the pristine nature of the Ural region. This is a region of wild, reserved, primeval forests, in which the Mansi of the Vogulsky population used to hunt. In 2001 UNESCO decided to give it the status of a Biosphere Reserve.
To the western shore of one of the deepest, cleanest and most beautiful lakes in the Ural region – Lake Turgoyak, one large island is adjoined – the mysterious island of Faith. It is considered to be a strong and highly bio-energetic place and you can often find people with various dowsing devices, as well as artists, writers, musicians and other creative professionals who tend to draw inspiration from ancient megaliths.
People came to inhabit these places much later than other regions of the Earth: during the early Paleolithic period, about 75,000 years ago. The Ural Mountains, for most of their length are still today not the most accessible place to visit.
Russians entered the northern Urals in the late 1000s. However, they did not discover the range’s mineral riches until the 1600s. In the 1700s the Urals became one of Russia’s most important industrial areas. Scientists from Russia and other countries have continued to study the mountains’ minerals.
As Russians in other regions gather mushrooms or berries, Uralians gather mineral specimens and gems.
The Urals have been a natural barrier for humans. During World War II Soviet forces planned to retreat east of the Urals in case Nazi’s invasion would have been eventually successful.
The Dyatlov Pass incident is the mysterious deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural Mountains on February 2, 1959. The experienced trekking group, who were all from the Ural Polytechnical Institute, had established a camp on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl when disaster struck. During the night something made them tear their way out of their tents from the inside and flee the campsite inadequately dressed in heavy snowfall and sub-zero temperatures.