|Area||1,612 km2 (622 sq mi)|
Oleshky Sands (Ukrainian: Олешківські піски, romanized: Oleshkivsʹki pisky) is a desert in Ukraine. It is situated inland from the Ukrainian coast of the Black Sea and consists of sand dunes or kuchuhury (locally), which reach a height up to five meters. A sparse vegetation can be located across the sands.
The sands are thought to be formed during the most recent ice age by aeolian processes accumulating and forming cliffs of lower parts of nearby River Dnieper. It is speculated that the amount of vegetation was reduced by herds of sheep who were introduced there by Friedrich-Jacob Eduardovych Falz-Fein who used the sands, formerly populated by weeds, as a pasture.
The Oleshky Desert is located in Kherson Raion, Kherson Oblast, 30 km (~20 mi) east of Kherson. Before the Russian annexation of the Crimean Khanate at the end of the 18th century, the territory belonged to the nomad Nogai Hordes, particularly the Djambuilut Horde. No detailed historical information about the region has survived.
The closest populated settlement is seven kilometers away (~4.5 mi). In Soviet times the sands were used as an Air Force bombing range for pilots of the Warsaw Pact alliance. To this day there is a possibility of finding some unexploded ordnance.
Due to its temperature and the amount of precipitation, the area is sometimes described as a semi-desert. Oleshky Sands are around 15 kilometres (9 mi) across and are surrounded by a dense afforestation, planted to prevent dunes moving. Due to its density, the forest often catches fire. Although a relatively small sandy steppe, the Oleshky Sands have sandstorms. They occur as the type of the sand is very fine and is easily picked up by a wind. The intensity of the sandstorms is rather weak. Beneath the sands, at a depth of around 35 metres (115 ft), there is an underground lake, which forms an essential part of the local environment.
On 6 June 2023, following the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, floodwaters from the surging Dnipro River flowed into the Oleshky Sands depression. Ukrainian ecologists believe this will seriously impact its ecosystem.