7 River Hiitolanjoki
Nature and wildlife
River Hiitolanjoki Scenic Path opened to the public!
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River Hiitolanjoki website placed online
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Association ‘Hiitolanjoki-yhdistys’ founded
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Project for a museum area and scenic path introducing the industrial history of River Hiitolanjoki
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Area map of River Hiitolanjoki

Location map and border crossing points

Scenic path and the power plant rapids on River Hiitolanjoki between Highway 6 and the Finno-Russian border

Have a closer look at River Hiitolanjoki by means of an old floating examination map


The total area of the waterways of River Hiitolanjoki is 1415 km2, divided into seven smaller catchment areas. The largest lakes of the headwaters which discharge into River Hiitolanjoki are Lakes Simpelejärvi and Torsanjärvi. On the Russian side of the border River Hiitolanjoki remains more or less in its natural state, although some of its rapids (Syrjäkoski and Sahakoski Rapids) still have remains of power plants built by the Finns before the Second World War.  

The landscape of River Hiitolanjoki on the Finnish side of the border features - on the one hand - rugged, rocky shorelines dominated by coniferous forests; and on the other, the verdant vegetation and deciduous trees which grow along the river banks. The starting point of the river is Juvankoski Rapids (height over 6 metres) which is located in the Simpele factory area and was harnessed for electricity production as early as the end of the 19th century. Downstream of the Simpele factories, the beautiful River Silamusjoki, renowned for its rapids now returned to their natural state, and for its brown trout (Salmo trutta fario), flows into River Hiitolanjoki. Uudensillankoski Rapids on the other hand runs free just below the spot where the two rivers meet. During the changes of drainage by the Ritakoski power plant, the visitor can sometimes witness the temporary rebirth of the former Ala-Ritakoski Rapids. After a drop of about 8 metres from Lahnasenkoski Rapids, River Hiitolanjoki meanders slowly amidst gently undulating fields and meadows. The banks of Kangaskoski Rapids consist predominantly of clay. From time to time, the old channel of the rapids still fills with surging waters and attracts the fish downstream of the power plant.   

See the surging waters of the old channel of Kangaskoski Rapids!    Film By: Mikko Europaeus.

A steep rock landscape between Ritakoski and Lahnasenkoski Rapids.

A verdant riverbank meadow on River Hiitolanjoki. Pictures: Hanna Ollikainen.
In terms of its regional landscape, the section of the river on the Finnish side of the border is located on the borders of Ladogan Karelia. The scenic trail of River Hiitolanjoki in fact already offers the visitor a foretaste of the unique verdance and the abundance of species inhabiting the stretch of the river just across the border, which remains virtually undisturbed in its splendidly natural state.

Here you can observe nature and wildlife, in all its diversity, at all times of the year. The river is home to the beaver, otter, fox and pine marten; in winter, the visitor can detect a variety paw prints and tracks made by the many mammals living here. The river also provides an important base for the rich bird life in early spring. The dipper enjoys a quick dive into the ice-free waters while in the warmer weather, the common sandpiper speeds along the water’s edge. With any luck, you may get the chance to admire the heron in full flight over the river. The riverbank vegetation features verdant water flora mainly consisting of rushes, and also includes species such as the hepatica, wood anemone, globeflower, yellow flag and alternate-leaved golden saxifrage which grow along the river. River Hiitolanjoki also boasts six species of fish which enjoy special protection in Finland under the EU directive: salmon (fresh water), asp, bull head, river lamprey, brook lamprey and spined loach. There is also an abundance of various types of dragonfly and mayfly.
River Hiitolanjoki is the only fresh-water breeding ground for the tiny spined loach  (Cobitis taenia) on the Finnish side of the border. Picture: Southeast Finland Regional Environment Centre.

Predatory fish (such as the pike) who spend their entire lifespan in the river have rather high mercury levels in River Hiitolanjoki. On the other hand, fish that only spend a part of their lifespan here – migratory fish, such as the trout and Ladogan salmon – have significantly lower mercury levels. The quality of the water has improved, mainly thanks to the biological sewage treatment plant of the Simpele factories, although the river still receives the discharge from factories and the sewage treatment plant of Rautjärvi municipality. Currently, following inspections carried out by the Southeast Finland Regional Environment Centre, the quality of the water has been found to be satisfactory.

A study concerning the natural life and bird populations of River Hiitolanjoki on the Finnish side of the border will be completed by the end of 2005.

Rainer Rajakallio, who carried out the study into the natural life and bird population of River Hiitolanjoki, is seen here identifying a species of dragonfly which is sitting on the shoulder of Hanna Ollikainen from the South Karelian Foundation for Recreation Areas …
... Club-tailed dragonfly (Gomphus vulgatissimus). Pictures: Mikko Europaeus.
Copyright 2005- Association 'Hiitolanjoki-yhdistys ry', Imatra Region Development Company
Website is produced as a part of project
'Scenic path introducing the industrial history and museum area of River Hiitolanjoki'