Sunday, 2 December 2012

Muurame: Muuramenjoki nature trail

Muuramenjoki nature trail is located in Muurame, Central Finland, only about 13 km south from the centre of its neighbouring city Jyväskylä. Before arriving here I was sure to meet a tiny, slowly flowing river so when I step down to it from Muurame's civic center by Virastotie street, I get a pleasant surprise. Is this really Muurame river or Muurame rapid?
Very soon I meet the first, slightly dirty nature trail sign which tells about the area's cultural heritage in Finnish. The buildings in front of me belonged to a furniture factory which started here in 1910. The red brick building housed a steam power plant in the old days but is today only used for storage. The white building behind it was originally taller, but its two top floors were destroyed by a fire in 1970 and only the ground floor remained. Today, the building is part of the fire station. 
I find an old, big millstone that has retired from active service decades ago and is now resting on the green grass in front of the former furniture factory. The mill was located on the other side of Muurame river but the building was torn down at the end of the 1950's. The building which housed the mill had earlier served also as an umbrella factory and a dairy.
The riverbank is steep and partly collapsed to the river; therefore there is red and yellow caution tape to stop anyone stepping too far. When I enter the footbridge to cross the river, I smell a bit of smoke. There is a fading fire close to the offical start of the nature trail, perched on a rock that could well be another millstone as this is where the mill used to be; the two fishermen have apparently had a break here. They have been fly fishing - with not too much success so far - and are getting ready to move to another spot further down.
The nature trail (luontopolku) sign indicates that I should head off the riverbank. However, I am not ready to leave Muurame river just yet but decide to follow another footpath that will lead me further upstream, to the bridge that I see in the distance. I'm simply so pleased to be walking by this beautiful stream that I don't want to leave it just yet.
This autumn has been very rainy in Central Finland, just like previous year. The water level in lakes normally goes down in the autumn but for two consecutive years now it's been the opposite. If there are also heavy snowfalls in the winter, it means that the water levels will remain very high also next spring. When I look at white water in Muurame river now, I can imagine this is what it could be like on a normal spring. The river flows from Muuratjärvi lake to Päijänne, descending 12 meters on the way, so it is no wonder the water flows pretty fast. The shallow river doesn't seem fit for kayaking because of the rocks but it is very popular among fishermen.
The path takes me up to Muuramentie road and right next to the bridge across the river. The large windows reveal that the wooden building must have been a shop earlier. Today it is home to Piano Jylhä.
The engraving on the stone bridge dates it back to 1898 when Finland was still part of Russia.
When I look upstream from the bridge towards Muuratjärvi lake the river seems to flow very gently.
However, immediately after the bridge the river seems to catch speed so there must be a bit of a drop already. The wooden construction on the right has been used for guiding floating logs downstream - no idea when that ended here. So glad I walked up here to get a good view of the stream from above!
I return downstream and follow the nature trail for a while through a now barren meadow - with all leaves having already fallen down - but hear the river calling me again. The opposite shore reveals the former furniture factory building I passed earlier. Fly fishing continues in this spot; the river is mostly very shallow but right in front of me the water is 5 meters deep, giving a better chance for catching fish. However, it seems that the fish are not in the mood for the elaborately made flies today.
If the fast flowing water has attacked the sandy riverbank a bit too fiercely, these poor birches have been victims of unthinking humans. If you want to make a fire, bring some kindling with you. There are shops only some hundred meters from here if you come unprepared. Never cut birch bark from a living tree! It doesn't grow back quickly but the trees stay like this.
Behind the old birches the water is totally still, reflecting the trees like a huge mirror. A total change of atmosphere from the more noisy white water only a little distance away! I slow down my step and find it is a wise decision because the duckboards are even more slippery than I anticipated. Watch your step!
The quiet waters have risen very high here. Some of the duckboards and part of the wooden bridge across to the other side of the river have suffered somewhat...
Despite the bridge being even partly under water, it is great to cross it and admire the scenery on the way. Some ingenious soul has kindly brought a wide board here as temporary help, to enable us to to walk across without getting your shoes wet.
A meadow, then a swamp. Such a great place - so many different faces to it within such a short distance from each other!
Walking a bit further along the path, the water is wonderfully still and here it looks like this is a small lake.
Therefore I get another surprise when the path reaches another bridge. The white water flows down so fast! Earlier, the dam blocked access for the migrating fish that would have wanted to swim upstream but then a fishway was built on the right side. In the fishway, the water doesn't flow as aggressively and even fish which are not as strong swimmers are able to get upstream. How kind!
I listen to the rumble of the white water which soon fades away as I return to the still waters. The nature trail is a circular route and very soon I arrive where I started from. Before that, there is a bit of a damp patch which indicates that if the water level keeps rising, the trail will need to be moved a bit higher.

Muurame river nature trail is a real gem that is worth a visit any time of the year. I can hardly wait to see it when the snow has fallen and the river is at least partly frozen, or in early summer, surrounded by the fresh shades of green, or in September-October when the leaves are turning yellow!