- Project Runeberg -  Through the Caucasus to the Volga /
247

(1931) [MARC] Author: Fridtjof Nansen Translator: Gerald C. Wheeler - Tema: Russia
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THE VOLGA
247
of the main course of the river is quite low, flat,
and swampy. Above Stalingrad the river throws
off a side arm, the Akhtuba, which follows the
eastern side of the main river channel, more or less
parallel to it at a distance of 12 to 22 kilometres,
right down as far as the lower and broader delta.
The lowland between the two arms is cut through
and overflowed by a tangled net of branches of the
river, which when the floods are out puts most ofthis
land under water for a breadth up to 30 kilometres
or more. The width of the main river may be from
480 to 3,500 metres, with depths of over 25 metres.
Throughout the whole length from Astrakhan up
to Sarepta the land behind the western, steeper
bank is undoubtedly higher than that on the east
side, but it likewise runs back flat; it is made
up by loose, post-Tertiary deposits, while to the
north it has ranges of hills consisting of layers of
heavier rock from the Cretaceous and Tertiary
periods. This characteristic feature—that the river
banks are so much higher and steeper on the west
side than on the east—became more and more
striking as wc went north. North from Stalingrad
the west bank is 30-40 metres, being formed in
great part of sandstone and limestone, and flinty
clay (from the Cretaceous and Tertiary periods) ;
while the east bank is low, quite level meadow-land,
often traversed by arms of the river, as far north
as the Kama and beyond, except for a short stretch
by Samara, where the river forces its way through
the Shiguli mountains, rising to 353 metres. It is
also remarkable that most of the towns and larger
villages along the lower Volga lic on the west bank,

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