Entering wilderness. Patvinsuo is quite far away from any village in eastern Finland. It is better known by hikers and bird watchers than paddlers. Paddling in lake Suomunjärvi is a piece of cake for an enthusiastic kayaker but for a canoeist a great place with sandy beaches and nice tent sites. Not to mention all the surrounding rivers which require more adventurous spirit.
If you arrive the park from Lieksa, take the alternative route via Kontiovaara Ridge Road (Kontiovaaran harjutie). The road goes on the ridge for several kilometres and is quite narrow and not paved, so for fearless and careful drivers only.
Our arrival at the park was quite late in the evening because of that beautiful road. A good place to start your canoe trip is by the Suomu Nature Information Hut. The sun was already setting down by the time we got off the shore. Though lake Suomunjärvi is quite small, I do not suggest navigating only with the map you get from the Information Booth. It is quite difficult to tell other peninsula from another in twilight. It may make your trip more exciting though.
It was our goal to get to Pokkaniemi tent site for night. Before arriving there we suddenly got stuck in sand in the middle of the lake a couple of times. We had to lighten our canoe, that meant stepping out of the canoe ourselves and wade through shallow water and pull the canoe. Quite unforgettable moments in the middle of the lake.
After arriving in Pokkaniemi tent site, we pitched our tent in the dark trying not to wake up another campers. It was the July’s busiest “tourist season” with one other tent.
Next day we hiked a little along the Suomunkierto Circle Trail (15 km) which is the most popular day hike in the area and goes past all tent sites by lake Suomunjärvi. A visit to nearby Virtaniemi tent site showed another nice pine forest with sandy beaches.
Next quiet evening ended with shrieking sounds coming from a kilometre or two somewhere. Being in the middle of the most densely populated bear area in Finland the first thought was naturally that it could be our largest carnivore, Ursus arctos meeting some other mammal. A beaver maybe? I still don’t know how beaver sounds when in danger but that sound was high and quite loud. Goose bumps.
Well, next day we headed to Suomunjoki river, the area where that last night’s sounds had become. Accompanied by other canoeists we had met in Pokkaniemi and who knew river, we were prepared to some obstacles.
At first we run into some beaver dams that we could easily pass by using another route.
Suomunjoki river is quite meandering with a few short branches. The water is very clear and the bottom and banks sandy, some places even of quicksand type. After a kilometre or so, the river leaves Patvinsuo National Park but runs just beside the park rest of the way to lake Koitere. In July water was quite low most of the time and the stream was peaceful.
We encountered fallen tree trunks which we had to go under and over several times. Going over in one place meant raising the canoe quite high which was possible only with a help from other canoeists. No wonder they mention this river on outdoor pages of Metsähallitus as “for those who want a challenge and adventure”. I had not heard of Suomunjoki river before entering Patvinsuo. Luckily I guess.
We ended our trip on Suomunjoki river at Sumukka ranger hut. About 4 kilometres trip took several hours of adventure canoeing and we arrived at Sumukka quite wet, exhausted, thrilled and hungry. Other canoeists continued the other half of the river to lake Koitere.
Because of this suprise trip to Suomunjoki river and the beauty and peace of Suomunjärvi made Patvinsuo National Park one of my favourite parks in Finland. What a pearl. All the hiking trails in the park along the bogs were left for future trips.