Especially in the region north of Tashkentskaya, this natural nature is even more evident, as the quaintest of rivers flow through people's backyards and wind their way through little valleys. It's fun to explore these neighborhoods, because the creeks tend to separate one group of houses from another, but the maps tell you nothing about how to cross over. So you wander and search until you stumble upon a narrow set of stairs that falls into a patch of reeds, and a metal grate lets you wobble your way to the other side. In some places, the city has begun a kind of mini-canalization project shoring up the banks, but this time not with dreary cement but with these fairly attractive bundles of stones that are held together with mesh. It's not as wild and exciting as a marshy stream, but its also less prone to flooding.
In the northeast of town, in Alatau District, branches of the Big Almaty River like the Terenkara and the Ashybulak have carved wide gorges through the landscape. Neighborhoods like Ulzhan are effectively islands, so stranded are they by the deep canyons around them. Here, though, are some of the last wild places in Almaty, with birdlife, marshes, and fish in the streams. This area has a reputation for squatters and poverty, but I find it one of the most ecologically unique. Go explore it sometime!