Before entering Kolovesi national park you should drop by in Enonkoski. From Kolovesi nature hut you can get kayaking maps and info for your trip. The old warehouse now serves as a Kolovesi information center and is one of the nicest nature centers in Finland.
There is a nature exhibition inside the house offering info about Saimaa Ringed Seal, only to be spotted in Saimaa lake area and also in Kolovesi national park.
The cafe is run by local 4 H Association and has a very nice terrace by the rapids. Not a bad place to have a break. Be sure to check the old bridge just a few meters away.
From late June there is an international sand art exhibition nearby the info hut. In Enonkoski you can get last supplies from local grocery stores for you kayaking trip.
Lemmenjoki national park in Lapland is the most northern national park of Finland. I made a canoe trip there a couple years ago down the river Lemmenjoki. Lemmenjoki river valley from Njurkulahti to Kultasatama is one of the most memorable places I have paddled. It is real wilderness though hiking trails follow the shores. It is about 22 km one way.
To Kultasatama you go upstream and in some places you have to pull your canoe from the shore. Even local long boats carrying hikers to Kultasatama go upstream though they unburden their load by letting hikers for a walk while passing streams. You better be prepared with good water shoes.
Along the river there are several tent and fire sites and a few wilderness hut, from these you can find best description on retkikartta.fi. Quite many hikers go to Kultasatama by boats from Njurkulahti and then leave for the paths in wilderness. In July the weather was quite nice, with for some reason no mosquitos but even bigger horseflies.
I made a short trip to lake Kuolimo in July. Lake Kuolimo is in the south-eastern part of Finland, in the lake area and connected to lake Saimaa, Finland’s biggest lake. On the shore of lake Kuolimo is Savitaipale village which is a good place to start paddling and exploring the lake. There a list of destinations and camp sites on the pages of southern Carelia.
One interesting place just a short distance away from Savitaipale is Suomensalo island, which has fine long sandy beach and looked like a great terrain for camping. Known among paddlers Suomensalo in early July was empty, no boats or paddlers at all. I did just a day trip to the island with a canoe but hope someday to go back and go kayaking around lake Kuolimo for a few days.
A friend of mine asked what national park would be good for paddling. Good question, what would be the best and most suitable national park of Finland for paddling. When choosing one you should ask some questions from yourself first.
Are you going to paddle with a kayak or canoe?
How far from your home can you travel?
Are you familiar with streams and whitewater paddling at all?
How long a trip are you planning? How many kilometres a day are planning and are used to paddle?
Do you want to paddle a circle route, starting from and ending to same place?
Do you have your own kayaks/canoes or do you need to rent them?
Do you want to combine paddling and hiking?
Do you want to make day trips or are you going to go camping?
When are you planning to go?
Knowing answers to these I was ready to suggest some places I have visited myself. In fact there are a lot of places I would recommend. These are not listed in any particular order. Just two of them includes streams of some short, others are all on lake areas, big and small.
1. Päijänne national park
Suggested boat: Kayak
Location: In central Finland, 120 km from Jyväskylä, 160 from Helsinki
Experience needed: Moderate/good, have to be able to cope with strong headwind and big waves on open waters
Suggested stay: 3-5 days
Circle route: Can be done, one starting point Padasjoki village
Rental services: In Padasjoki
Paddling and hiking: 8 km long hiking trail on Kelvenne island (16 km back and forth)
Day trips: Can be done but it takes time to reach the park and the area is quite big
Best time to visit: June or August, July is the busiest time though probably the warmest
Location: In Eastern Finland, 190 km from Jyväskylä, 370 km from Helsinki
Experience needed: Moderate/good experience, have to be able to cope with strong headwind and big waves on open waters. I would not recommend it to inexperienced paddlers unless you really know the weather and wind forecasts.
Suggested stay: 4-7 days
Circle route: Can be done from Oravi or Rantasalmi
Rental services: Available at Oravi or Rantasalmi (Porosalmi)
Paddling and hiking: not really, a 7 km nature trail in Linnansaari island
Day trips: If only want to visit Linnansaari island
In southern Finland there is also Repovesi national park of which I have no paddling experience but seems to have nice and interesting waters. In parks Liesjärvi and Leivonmäki you can go for a couple days of paddling trip. In Isojärvi national park you can also paddle on 20 km long lake Isojärvi which has two camping sites on its shore.
If you are an experienced sea kayaker you can of course visit Finland’s national parks by the sea; Archipelago np (see seakayakingetc’s blog post on that), Botnia Bay np, Ekenäs Archipelago np and Gulf of Finland np.
These are the best national parks to paddle. Totally my own ranking. Combination of proven peace, good camping sites and protected nature is something that attracts me to visit these parks again and again.
I made a day trip to lake Saarijärvi in Espoo at the first weekend of June by canoe. The aim was to paddle three lakes; Saarijärvi, Sarkkinen and Suolikas with my friend. Lakes Sarkkinen and Suolikas are inside Nuuksio national park and parts of lake Saarijärvi belong to Nuuksio np.
Lake Saarijärvi (there are tens, maybe hundreds of places called Saarijärvi in Finland) has very clear water and a sandy beach on its northern shore. Saarijärvi is popular diving place in southern Finland. One diver suddenly emerged with his harpoon (?) when we got our canoe off water after our trip. There are quite many cottages on the shores but the southern shore leading to the national park is quite peaceful. Lake Saarijärvi is small, only about 2 kilometers long and has an one big island.
You can launch your canoe to water by the public beach and then leave your car at the parking place across Vihdintie road. The local cottage owners are quite eager to watch the use and parking along their private road by the lake.
From lake Saarijärvi you have to carry your vessel to another lake Saarikas. The longer wider path (about 300 meters) was blocked by several fallen logs and the shorter path (about 200 meters?) goes across a little ridge. Both paths are pumpy with roots of trees on them so canoe carts are of no use here. Due to several reasons we decided not to drag our canoe to lake Saarikas and after that from lake Saarikas to lake Suolikas which transfer would have been shorter (about 30 meters?). Well that leaves room for future plans to visit a few of these 43 smaller lakes of Nuuksio national park. And yes, there were already those little friends, mosquitos waiting on the shore. Good mosquito summer is to be expected..
The weather was warm and sunny with only a small breeze from northwest. At the break I tried to paddle the canoe alone from rear with no weight in front. When the small gust of wind hit the front it turned quickly the canoe to the opposite direction and to the rocks. Fortunately I had my kayak paddle with me to get me back to the route. Again it was proven that with wrongly balanced weight on the canoe it is beyond steering.
The trip was shorter than planned but worth it.
Took some underwater video of the log. Weird sounds come from the paddle.
Tiilikkajärvi national park is located in eastern Finland and has a few kilometers long lake Tiilikka. The lake is suitable for a couple of days easy canoeing. Those who wish to take longer routes and rapids can paddle from lake Tiilikka to lake Älänne via Tiilikkajoki river.
To start your canoe trip you can enter the park either from the south, near Sammakkotammi or from the north, at Pohjoisniemi. Pohjoisniemi is better if arriving time when water level is lower (later in summer), just a short carrying along the duckboards and probably with some not-so-nice mosquitos..
Most of the park is mire, so called aapa bog but the area around the lake is full of fine pine forests and sandy beaches. On the fragile pine ridge area you can land only on spots marked by red arrows on the map and while hiking should stay on the marked paths. By canoe you can reach both ridges dividing the lake. The tips of these ridges don’t meet in the middle of the lake, these a gap of about hundred meters. Both ridges have camping sites on sandy beaches. Motor boats are not allowed on the lake which is great.
There is one interesting historical point, reached only by water in summer, border sign on the rock from year 1595 Täyssinä peace treaty between Sweden and Russia. The park has also a history of log floating, Uiton kämppä used to be a loggers’ cabin and now serves as a rental hut.
Since the lake is quite small even for canoeing you can combine some hiking on the ridges and in the park to your trip. And once you’re on this side of the country I advise to have a look of other great places for paddling nearby, like lake Älänne or lake Pielinen (a bit different challenge, more suitable for kayaking ). There are several river routes with rapids around.
Tiilikkajärvi national park is in the middle of wilderness, the closest grocery shops are in Rautavaara, 15 kilometers from the park. The park is quite remote with some day hikers but enough room for camping, at the busiest season in July there were four tents at Venäjänhiekka site.
One of the best places I have paddled in Finland is Oulanka river which is quite popular among paddlers. The most suitable part of the river for beginners and those who like less white water is from below Kiutaköngäs rapids to Jäkälämutka. Starting place for 25 km route is after Kiutaköngäs rapids near Mataraniemi fire site.
In May after river is freed of ice it is still quite wild but in June water level goes lower and stream is easy even for beginners. More experienced paddlers can try upper part of river from Savilampi to Oulanka Visitor Center before Kiutaköngäs rapids. There are also several rapids where river rafting trips go but Kiutaköngäs rapids is not one of them and not to be entered.
The easy route from Kiutaköngäs to Jäkälämutka can be paddled in a few hours but to enjoy the trip and nature more it is advised to stay a night either in Ansakämppä wilderness hut or on the opposite shore in Nurmisaarenniemi in a tent. There is also a nice fire site along sandy beach in Alaniemi near Jäkälämutka.
Paddling on the route you will probably see all kinds of wildlife; eagles, reindeer, tracks of bear perhaps? If you pass Jäkälämutka stop point by accident you will run to rope across the river indicating border zone. See more info of canoeing routes and rental services from nationalparks.fi.