Thursday, January 4, 2024

Mongolia | Wanders in the Khentii Mountains of Mongolia | The Source of the Amur River and the Birthplace of the Mongols

The Amur River is, according to most sources, the tenth-longest river in the world. The Amur flows into the Strait of Tartary, which separates Sakhalin Island from mainland Asia. The Strait of Tartary opens to the north into the Sea of Okhotsk, part of the Pacific Ocean. The Amur River proper begins at the confluence of the Shilka and Argun rivers and flows 1755 miles to the sea. The 348-mile-long Shilka River begins at the confluence of the Ingoda and Onon rivers. The Onon, the larger of the two and thus considered the ultimate source of the Amur River System, measures 641 miles in length. Thus the entire Onon-Shilka-Amur River System is 2,744 miles long. Some reference works maintain, however, that the ultimate source of the Amur River System is the Kherlen River, which flows east out of the Khentii Mountains and eventually debouches into Khölön Lake (also known as Dalai Nuur) in the Chinese province of Inner Mongolia. Normally it is an endorheic lake with no outlet, however, and only at times of high water does Khölön Lake overflow into the Argun (Ergüne) River, which flows northeast and eventually combines with the Shilka River to form the Amur River. The fact that the Kherlen-Khölön Lake-Argun-Amur River System does not flow continuously seems to disqualify it in the eyes of most authorities, including the Times Altas of the World ( names the Onon as the source of the river system, with the Argun-Kherlen as a “2nd source”). 

 During my first trip into the Khentii Mountains in 1997 I crossed Ikh Davaa, which separates the drainages of the Kherlen Gol and the Onon Gol, and then followed Tsonj Chuluu Creek downstream to its confluence with Öngöljin Creek. This is the actual beginning of the Onon River. Öngöljin Creek is the bigger of the two creeks that combine to form the Onon. Therefore the true, ultimate source of the Onon-Shilka-Amur River System is the source of Öngöljin Creek, a detail left out of all atlases and other authorities. On that first trip into the Khentiis I was hell-bent on visiting Onon Hot Springs and ascending the sacred mountain of Burkhan Khaldun (Khentii Khan Uul), so I did not trace Öngöljin Creek to its beginning. I did decide that one day I would return and locate the source of Öngöljin Creek, the true beginning of the Öngöljin Creek–Onon–Shilka-Amur River System. My original plan was to retrace my 1997 route to the beginning of the Onon Gol and then proceed upstream on Öngöljin Creek . . . Continued.