Kara Kum (kärˌə kŏmˈ) [key], two deserts, one in Kazakhstan and one in Turkmenistan. The Caspian Kara Kum or Garagum, the larger desert (c.115,000 sq mi/297,900 sq km), is W of the Amu Darya River and includes most of Turkmenistan. The Murghab and Tejen rivers flow out of the Hindu Kush Mts. to the south and empty into the desert, providing water for irrigation. The oases of Mary and Tejen are noted for cotton growing. The Kara Kum Canal carries water from the Amu Darya at Kelif westward across the desert to Mary and ultimately to Ashgabat, a distance of c.500 mi (800 km). The canal water permits irrigated agriculture (mainly cotton) and industry along the southern margin of the desert. The Trans-Caspian RR, a leading transportation artery of Central Asia, crosses the desert from Turkmenbashi (Krasnovodsk), on the Caspian Sea, to Ashgabat, Mary, Bukhara, and Tashkent. Natural gas deposits have been discovered at Derweze (Darvaza) and Mary. The Aral Kara Kum desert (c.15,440 sq mi/40,000 sq km) lies NE of the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.