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Southern Kuusamo is mostly characterized by forests and peatlands. There are several protected areas with nature paths and a lot of information about the special species of the area and the vulnerable ecosystem of the peatland.
We have gathered up some information about the Southern Kuusamo area (locations in alphabetical order):
The old-growth forests of Southern Kuusamo
The forest areas of Pajupuronsuo, Romevaara, Virmajoki and Närängänvaara in the south of Kuusamo are included in the governmental protection program of old-growth forests as well as the European Natura 2000 nature protection network on the basis of their special types of habitats and the species found in the area. Together they form an entity of forests representing an extraordinary diversity of forest and peatland ecosystems and species, which can be said to be priceless not only in Finland but in the whole of Europe.
The Hyöteikkö Peatland Protected Area is situated to the southwest of the Närängänvaara hill. The area is a fine example of an open Northern aapa-type of bog. You can get there from Kuusamo along the Kajaani road (number 5) - Kurvinen road (843), from which along the signs towards Närängänvaara. The hiking route starts right next to the smaller road. (See also Närängänvaara below.)
Lake Iijärvi is a large lake with a lot of narrow capes and bays. The lake is the source of the Iijoki river emptying into the Gulf of Bothnia. The lake is situated to the south of Kuusamo town and the area is about 9.5 sq. km.
Iivaara (470 m) is the highest fell of Southern Kuusamo. This felltop was agreed to mark the border between the two countries in the peace treaty (Täyssinä) in 1595 after a war between Russia and Sweden. The summit is treeless, and the very special kind of mineral called "ijolite" shows on the surface. The fell is the only place in Finland where this mineral is found. The Iirinki trail goes via the top of Iivaara to Iivaaran Eräkartano. The length of the trail is 9 km.
Lake Irnijärvi is situated south of Lake Kerojärvi on both sides of the municipal border between Kuusamo and Taivalkoski, and its water level is, quite like in Lake Kerojärvi, regulated because of the water-power stations downstream. The area of the lake is about 20 sq. km.
The Isosuo-Kivisuo Peatland Protected Area is a very fine example of an integrated whole of open aapa bogs and untouched forests. In the Northwestern corner the bogs are of a quagmire type, and from there on gradually turning into sedge-dominated open bogs and further on even more barren than that. Along the small rivers the bogs are of an alluvial type. The Visavaara hill is situated northwest of the protected peatland area and the Riita-aho area west of it. In the Visavaara area there is a population of flying squirrel, and in the same area there grow also 5 endangered species of the shelf fungus.
Julma Ölkky is a canyon lake, wild and beautiful. The rock walls on the shores rise up to 50 m above the water level. The lake is 3 km long but very narrow, only 20-100 m wide, and 42 m deep. Close to the north end of the lake there is a hollow in the rock called "Pirunkirkko", Devil's Church. On the eastern rock wall there are several small steep falling brooks, one of which is known by the name "Rainbow Spring" because of its colourful reflections. Guided boat tours are arranged on the lake. It is situated near the municipal border between Kuusamo and Suomussalmi, close to the Hossa hiking area.
Lake Kerojärvi - two lakes: the Large and Small Kerojärvi. The lake is part of the Iijoki river water system, a rather shallow and regulated lake. The area is about 20.5 sq. km, situated near the southern border of Kuusamo.
Lake Kurkijärvi is 301.7 m above sea level, very narrow and long (16 km).
The Närängänvaara Protected Area situated along the Russian border - with the length being 15 km - is the largest in southern Kuusamo. Närängänvaara rises 381 m above sea level and 150 m above the surrounding large bogs. The 10 km long and 3 km wide area towards the northeast from the lakes at the foot of Närängänvaara is a fine sample of the best possible European old-growth forests. In one of the oldest stands of the area there is a pine, still growing, which started to grow as early as the 1330´s. This means that it is one of the oldest trees in the whole country. The old farmhouse and farmyard near the top of the hill - far away from the villages around - is a fine example of where the people of the region used to settle in the old times. You can get there from Kuusamo along the Kajaani road (number 5) - Kurvinen road (843), from which along the signs towards Närängänvaara. The hiking route starts right next to the smaller road.
The Pajupuronsuo Nature Protected Area is situated 30 km south-southwest of Kuusamo town. It is totally different from the other protected areas in this part of Kuusamo. There are large bogs in the area, and a lot of deciduous trees grow in the spruce dominant forest stands. Of these the European aspen is of great importance for the living organisms in the area. One of the rarities among the bird species is the red-flanked bluetail. There are also flying squirrels in the area.
Penikkavaara (439 m) is quite near Iivaara, and the bedrock contains the same rock types as Iivaara. A steep sloping forested fell, without any rocky areas.
The Romevaara Protected Area (The Southern Kuusamo Protection Area) is situated in the eastern end of Lake Irnijärvi. The area has the form of a triangle, the corners of which are the bay of Vaaraperä of Lake Irnijärvi, Lake Salmijärvi and Lake Julma Ölkky. The Romevaara hill is 330 m high. In the northern part of the area there is the Lomajoki gorge, an ancient fault in the bedrock that is 7 km long, running from the east to the west. In the higher areas of the hill there are 600 years old pines and also old sites where farmers cultivated the land using the slash burning method in the old times. There are exceptionally numerous springs there. Also many species of birds of prey can be seen there.
The Virmajoki Protected Area (the Southern Kuusamo Protection Area) is situated in the easternmost part of Kuusamo - almost completely within the frontier zone area (a narrow area along the border with no access without special permit). The area is striped by bogs, small streams and narrow, long ridges. In the forests here you can find many places where the old slash and burn cultivation method was used. The area is rich in different bird species, and even beavers have been seen there.