Khortytsia National reserve includes Khortytsia Island itself and the adjacent islands and rocks: Baida, Dubovyi, Try Stogy, Blyzniuky and others. This area of 12,5 X 2,5 kilometers includes all the geographies of the country from steppe to mountains and deserts. From over one thousand species of local plants there are 105 native and 33 rare ones. Twelve species of vertebrates and 33 species of invertebrate animals are listed in the Red Book of Ukraine.
Khortytsia became famous in times of Zaporizhian Sich (initially - a fortified military camp, later on - the largest organization of free Ukrainian Cossacks). Land and water ways from the north to south crossed at Khortytsia. Near the isle started the Dnieper rapids and the Viking drakkar long ships and Cossack 'chaika' boats could not go further.
The first fortresses here were built by Scythians (6th and 5th centuries BC). In Kievan Rus times, the island was a garrison for our troops that fought nomads, as documented in chronicles from 1103, 1190 and 1223.
At the end of the 15th century, Cossacks built their stronghold on the island. The foundation for Zaporizhian Sich was laid out on Khortytsia in 1552-56 by a Hetman of the Ukrainian Cossacks Baida-Vyshnevetsky. He built here a castle, from which he set out on campaigns against Turkey. Baida withstood a siege by Crimean Khan Devlet-Gerei (1557), and one year later the ashamed Khan came back with his Turkish allies, Vyshnyvetskyi was forced to leave the island and its fortifications were destroyed. Cossacks built a settlement on Khortytsia again in 1618-1620.
Before the destruction of Zaporizhian Sich by Catherine II (June 5, 1775) Khortytsia was a Cossack stronghold. Then Prince Potemkin planted here a garden, and the founder of Odessa, Admiral Jose de Ribas, built dockyards and quays on Khortytsia.
During the past 50 years the island has been gathering regalia and titles. In 1965, it was declared a State Historic and Cultural Reserve. In 1994 Khortytsia and its nearby rocks and islands got the status of National Reserve and the building of a historic and cultural Zaporizhian Sich centre began here in 2004. The Cossack town from the 16th and 17th centuries has already begun a movie career: last year film director Volodymyr Bortko shot "Taras Bulba" here. Recently in May Khortytsia hosted the "Cossatskyi Ostriv" (Cossack's Island) festival with folk handicrafts, smiths and potters, and a performance by the Cossack horse theatre. Although possibly not fully authentic, reviving the Sich during the festival gives an image of former and modern Ukraine, This image is enthusiastic, free and brave, just like the Zaporizhian Cossacks.