What is Elimyssalo?

Elimyssalo Nature Reserve is located in eastern Kuhmo and is part of the Friendship Park. You can admire bogs decorated with mysterious looking dead trees, ancient spruce forests and wilderness farms. Elimyssalo is not a well-known hiking destination and it is higly possible that you won’t meet any other people during your hike.

Two people on the Elimyssalo duckboards
Photo: Metsähallitus/Harri Tarvainen

Elimyssalo departure points

Most people start their trip from the parking lot of Saari-Kiekki:

You can also approach the area from the north, from Viiksimo:

In winter, roads to the starting points are not ploughed unless there are logging sites nearby. See the current situation on luontoon.fi.

Beaver dam in Elimyssalo

History of Elimyssalo

The wild forest reindeer is strongly associated with Elimyssalo. The wild forest reindeers once lived all over Finland, but due to excessive hunting they disappeared from our country in the early 1900s.

At the end of the 1950s, a happy discovery was made – the reindeers had returned to Finland, specifically to Kuhmo’s Elimyssalo. On the Russian side, a small reindeer population had been preserved, and nature does not recognise man-made boundaries.

People wanted to offer peaceful wilderness space for the reindeers to live, and so Elimyssalo became a nature reserve.

Levävaara and Latvavaara – wilderness houses that have never been accessible from a road

In Elimyssalo you can also visit two wilderness houses, Levävaara and Latvavaara. Both houses were deserted in the 1960s, but Metsähallitus keeps the sites in 1950s condition by mowing the yards and other measures.

Levävaara Farmhouse and two women walking
Photo: Metsähallitus/Harri Tarvainen

Read more about the history of Elimyssalo on luontoon.fi.

Experiences from Elimyssalo – an August day trip to beaver-infested Lake Elimysjärvi

We went on a day trip to Elimyssalo in August 2022.

The route chosen was the Elimysjärvi Circuit – a 13-kilometre circular route. Before the trip, we had read from the luontoon.fi website that the lake level had risen in recent years as beavers had built their dams.

We drove to the starting point of Saari-Kiekki along Juntintie road. The road is a good dirt road, although sometimes the gravel is piled up in the middle of the road, which can cause problems when driving a very low car. My Primera survived the road just fine, a couple of stones banged against the bottom of the car without causing any damage.

The first stretch is 1.5 km from Saari-Kiekki to Levävaara wilderness farm. The last time I was here there were sheep and shepherds, but this year the farm was deserted. We admired the old courtyard for a while before continuing our journey.

Levävaara Farmhouse seen from a distance

From Levävaara towards Lake Elimysjärvi, the path runs through shady forest islands and swamps. The duckboards are mostly fine, but there are also some broken parts.

How much do the duckboards in Elimysjärvi lake sink?

When you reach Lake Elimysjärvi, the first thing to do is cross the bridge over a small stream. Last time I visited, I remembered that there was a handsome gray dead tree lying next to the bridge, which I wanted to photograph again. However, most of the tree was submerged in water. At least I was able to take a pair of photos that show the change in water level.

The tree in 2019
The tree 2022

At this point, be prepared to wade in water that has raised on the duckboards. The duckboards next to the bridge sank only a couple of centimetres, and our hiking boots didn’t get wet at all. We thought we had it easy, but there were more duckboards coming later…

Duckboards in the water in Elimyssalo

After the bridge, the trail enters the forest again and there you encounter one of the unofficial sights of the trail; a couple of metres high ant hill! We went to admire the anthill and wondered how any bear has never broken it.

Woman and a big anthill

Closer to the Saunaniemi shelter, the path moves right to the lake shore again and you encounter more duckboards. We had thought beforehand that they would hardly sink any more than the previous ones, but we were wrong – they sank 10 to 15 cm under water and we both got our shoes wet.

Near the shelter we heard a huge splash from the water, as if a big stone had been thrown inside. We wondered for a while about the source of the sound, until we realised it was from a beaver’s tail! A beaver was swimming in the lake next to us.

Lake Elimysjärvi and gray old tree
The duckboards in Elimyssalo

The surroundings of the Saunaniemi shelter had also changed a little since our last visit. The fire site was still on dry land, but the shoreline had moved closer.

We made coffee and baked sandwiches and sausages. In the guestbook, almost everyone talked about sunken duckboards. One family was knee-deep in water!

A campfire, a coffee pot and two pieces of bread

We decided to return the same way we came, as I remembered there were long stretches of duckboards on north side of the lake, and we didn’t want to go out at dusk to test how it would go. (Afterwards, when I discussed the topic in the Koe Kainuu Facebook group, I heard that the southern side of the lake was the most challenging part, and we walked it twice more!)

Beaver dam in Elimyssalo

On the way back, we walked in the glorious sunset light and got back to the car just before dark. At the last bog the sky turned a gorgeous orange!

Elimyssalo is a great destination for all those who like old forests and bogs. If you’ve never seen a beaver, head to Elimyssalo and you’ll have a good chance of spotting one!

Blog posts about other sites in the Friendship Park:

Lentuankoski

Harakkaari

Iso-Palonen

Elimyssalo

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