Monday, 21 November 2011

Imatra: Ancient Vuoksi nature trail

I am standing now at Imatrankoski rapids, or rather, the ancient rapids, because the water no longer runs wild but has other things to do, like produce power. Guess what? Kruununpuisto park surrounding the rapids is also the first nature reserve in Finland, following the order of Russian Czar Nicholas I in 1842 when Finland was still a Grand Duchy of Finland, part of the Russian Empire. The nature reserve was founded to protect the surroundings of Imatrankoski rapids, the first and foremost tourist attraction of its time in Finland. However, after the first World War environmentalism gave way to growing needs for electricity, and a dam was built for the hydroelectric plant in the 1920's.
A marked nature trail (Muinaisuoman luontopolku) walks you through the area where the ancient Vuoksi river used to roam free. The nature trail is marked with blue paint / pine cone symbols and it begins on the side of the hydroelectric plant of Vuoksi river, returning to the Imatrankoski rapids ravine. The signs are only in Finnish, but the trail is only 1,5 km long and easy to follow. Note that some areas may be wet or muddy.
The trail passes the hydroelectric plant and then enters the forest, climbing on the ridge. Beware of the wide-spread roots of spruces!
At the far end of the trail is the meeting point of the man-made canal through which Vuoksi now runs, yielding power on its way (hydroelectric plant above), and of the original Imatrankoski rapids route.
Vuoksi river is a favourite of fishermen, and a solitary fisherman is rowing his boat nearby in the hopes of catching something for dinner.  November sun alights the path - a pleasant surprise - which starts to wind back towards the dry ravine.
Since there is no water flowing from up above, the downstream area of the natural Imatrankoski rapids has hardly any water. The rocks seem a bit lost without it. Soon the trail takes me higher, on surprisingly even ground, where vegetation is (still) scarce. This area was formed when the power plant canal was dredged in the 1980's and it was cheapest to dump the load here. I wonder if the nature reserve area reached this far those days, and was part of it buried underneath? Money ruled over the environment then, but I suppose nature will take over in the end...
On the shore there is something red, a spiral shaped work of environmetal art. Wish I knew what it was, and who made it, but there are no clues.
The trail descends and reaches duckboards over a damp area. A bunch of typhas are taking it easy and basking in the sun.
However, if the water in the canal above the hydroelectric plant ever overflows, this is where the rushing water will land, following the overflow canal from the right...But that would be an extremely rare occurrence.

The spruces are protecting a growth of polypody (kallioimarre in Finnish) covering the rocks. Polypody has maintained its green colour although it is already November. Very soon they will turn yellow.

Very soon it is time to turn your eyes to the ground, and not just to watch your step.

In places, there are giant's kettles (potholes) which have the currents and rocks have co-created when the ancient Vuoksi river flowed right here.
The path then arrives at the Imatrankoski rapids ravine, and on the opposite side you can see the magnificent hotel Imatran Valtionhotelli, originally Grand Hotel Cascade. The jugend style hotel dates back to 1903.  Vuoksi river was born about 5000 years ago, and at first it was shallow and wide. The water however managed to crack an opening to the rock beneath it, and Vuoksi plunged into the narrow area, creating Imatrankoski rapids.
I am almost back where I started from. Imatrankoskentie road is looming above me, but to follow the trail to the other side I don't need to cross it: the path turns to an old tunnel beneath the road through which logs were floated downstream in the old days.
At Patopuisto park (Dam park), the statue Imatran impi (Imatra maiden) by Taisto Martiskainen (1972) looks forlorn: you just can't bathe without water! Sorry darling, but it's almost winter time and you wouldn't like to be bathing in ice anyway. This is Finland.

No comments:

Post a Comment