Ukraine’s Enchanted River

As one of the six major rivers of Ukraine that have not been contained in dams or re-directed by human intervention, the Desna winds its way across the countryside from where it originates in the Smolensk Oblast of Russia. It crosses the Russian-Ukrainian border and flows through the Chernihiv and Sumy Oblasts of Ukraine, before ending its 1,130 kilometer journey near Kiev, where it empties into the Dnieper River. Parts of the river may freeze over in winter, and rain, melting snow and ice cause it to flood the surrounding areas and fill up the many picturesque lakes that depend on it for water.

Affectionately referred to as the Enchanted River the Desna has changed its own course many times over the years, with the observation being made that it is as though the river finds its current course tedious, and decides to venture along a detour or two before reaching its destination of the Dnieper River. Locals call the area through which the Desna flows, Podessinya, and it is within this well-watered area that the notable cities of Chernihiv, Oster and Novhorod-Siversky are found. All of these cities have long and fascinating histories tying them to the early-medieval state of Kievan Rus, with many well-preserved buildings and fortresses serving as reminders of a time when protection against invaders was a priority. Archeologists have discovered a number of historically valuable artifacts and burial sites along the Desna River, revealing that the area had settlers going back thousands of years. Quite a number of the villages in Podessinya are mentioned in various ancient journals, showing that some have been in existence for up to a thousand years.

The lush vegetation, along with the pure waters of the Desna, makes this area of Ukraine a popular leisure destination. Activities include fishing, canoeing, swimming, bird watching, hiking and camping. Hang-gliders and micro-light aircraft offer visitors a bird’s eye view of the scenic surroundings. Birds found in the area include black storks, white-tailed eagles, great reed warblers, coots, terns, egrets and several species of migratory birds, depending on the time of year. Protected areas along the Desna River include Mezynsky, Mizhrichynsky and Desnyano-Starohutsky. Ukraine’s Desna River provides the perfect setting to escape from the rat-race.