Republic of North Osetia-Alania, Alagirsky District
The North Osetia Reserve was established on the territory of the Tseisky Reserve in 1967 mainly in order to preserve the natural landscape and facilitate study of the distinct natural systems of the northern slopes of the Central Caucasus. The park’s total area is nearly 30,000 ha.
The reserve is located on the northern slopes of the eastern Central Caucasus, at altitudes of between 500 and 4500m. The Bokovoy Range, in which the majority of the park is situated, is characterised by very steep and rocky slopes, with cliffs, scree-fall and glaciers constituting more than 70% of the park’s territory. The biggest glacier, Tseisky, has an area of nearly 10 sq.km.
The park’s main river is the Ardon, but there are more than 100 rivers and large streams in total. Classed as a temperate continental climate, the coldest month is February with average temperatures in the Tseisky Gorge at an elevation of 1750m at -9ºC, and in June at +13ºC.
Flora and fauna
The park is rich in plant life, from broadleaf woodland, including beech, hornbeam, and maple, to mountain pine forests to slope-dwelling shrubbery. Around one third of the park is covered in forest, and the most common trees are eastern beech, Scots pine, white birch, and grey alder.
The reserve hosts a huge number of species endemic to the Caucasus, and many of them can be found only in Ossetia. These include species such as campanula zeyensis, the Caucasian bellflower; campanula kryophila, and campanula ardonensis, all of which grow on rocky cliffs.
Inhabitants of the broadleaf forests include the European pine marten, wildcat, wild boar, roe deer, red deer (which has been re-introduced to the region), and the European bison, which is now on the Red List of endangered species.
Higher altitudes are home to the stoat, beech marten, East Caucasian tur, and the chamois. Animals such as bears, lynxes, wolves, and foxes can be found at all elevations, from lowland forests to alpine meadows, cliffs and rockfalls.
What to see
North Osetia’s second largest cave system, Shubi-Nykhasskaya, is located in the park, and contains large halls and passages that are covered in stalactites and stalagmites. A rare species of bat that appears on Russia’s Red List can also be found in the cave.
There are plenty of fascinating historical landmarks to visit, such as the mesolithic site Shau-Lagat in the village of Dzivgis, the cave towns in Ursdon, Dzivgis, and Nuzal, and catacomb burial sites in the settlements of Arkhon and Kartsa.
Several interesting tourist routes have been created within the reserve, with lengths ranging from 3km to 10km. You’ll see Skazky and Tseisky glaciers, a 12th century church, the Tseisky Gorge waterfall and other sights. On the wildlife spotting tour you can observe turs, peregrine falcons, and bearded vultures, as well as grouse mating rituals. Bears and lynxes are more rare.