The Rugged Gorge
The National Parks best known sight is Hiidenportti Gorge, which is a massive rupture valley with vertical walls; its depth at its deepest point is 20 metres. At the bottom of the gorge there are dark ponds with mossy banks.
The gorge is 1 km long and is located at a watershed. Waters from its northwest end flow into the water system of the River Oulujoki. At the southeast end, waters flow through Porttijoki River Valley towards the Vuoksi water system in Eastern Finland. The River Porttijoki has it's headwaters at Hiidenportti watershed.
The River Porttijoki Gathers Waters
The River Porttijoki has small rapids at parts and at other points it is made up of still, black ponds. There are steep cliffs, boulders and narrow quaking mires on the shores. The catchment area of the River Porttijoki is mostly within the National Park. Therefore Hiidenportti is an important place for conservation of water nature, even though only 2 sq. km of the area is actually covered by water. There are dozens of small lakes and ponds in the catchment area. The barren brown watered lakes and their shores do no support much vegetation. The shores are covered by mires or forest soil. Tufted Loosestrife (Lysimachia thyrsiflora) and Common Reed (Phragmites australis) are found there. Ponds surrounded by pine mires and open bogs have White Water Lilies (Nymphaéa cándida) and Spatterdocks (Nuphar lutea). The natural fish population of Hiidenportti National Park include the Perch (Perca fluviatilis), the Pike (Esox lucius) and the Roach (Rutilus rutilus). There are no salmonoids in the area's waters.
Old-growth Spruce Forests and Hilltop Pine Forests
The scenery in the National Park is made up of mires and forests. Forests cover two-thirds of the area. The last time logging was practised in Portinsalo was in the beginning of the 20th century. Before that time the forests were used for slash-and-burn agriculture and for tar burning. Today the forests are approximately 100 to 150 years old. They are practically all spruce and pine forests in their natural-state, with old-growth shield bark covered pines and dead silver-gray trees surrounding mires. These forests are in sharp contrast to the commercial forests of the area.
A large part of the forests are moist forests. The tops of fells are generally covered by pine forests and their slopes by spruce. The spruce forests covering the slopes of Urpovaara Hill are the park's most splendid. It's easiest to get to these murky woods if one takes the marked trail from Urpovaara Hill to Hiidenportti Gorge. In the midst of the large spruce trees there are some grand aspens.
There is only one herb-rich forest in the National Park. Plants, which thrive there, are the Bearded Couch (Elymus caninus), Mezereum (Daphne mezereum), Rosa majalis and the Baneberry (Actaea spicata). On some parts of the slopes of Kovasinvaara Hill there are birch trees growing as a reminder of slash-and-burn agriculture, which was probably practised in the area as late as in the beginning of the 20th century. These birch forests are much like herb-rich forests: lush and varied.
A Mosaic of Mires
The mires in Hiidenportti National Park are in their natural-state. They wind into ravines and valleys, without forming vast open mires.
There are many spruce mires in the National Park. They are usually located by streams and in narrow steep-sided ravines and are a mix of myrtillus spruce mire, cloudberry dominated spruce mire and wood horsetail spruce mire. There are even lusher mires on slopes with cascading brooks and on the shores of streams and along with spruce, Downy Birch (Betula pubescens) such vegetation as the Grey Alder (Alnus incana), Goat Willow (Salix caprea), ferns and some more demanding hays and grasses.
The most common mire type in Hiidenportti National Park is the dwarf-shrub pine bog, growing pines and the Marsh tea (Ledum palustre). These pine bogs often surround open bogs. The area also has an abundance of mires that are a mix of pine mire and spruce mire as well as mires that are a mix of open bog and pine mire.
The National Park's open bogs are narrow and long strips in the middle of forests. The largest open bogs are Kortesuo Mire and Urposuo Mire.
Although Hiidenportti is quite barren and the vegetation is sparse, there are surprising lush spots in the middle of mires; spring areas, seepage areas, and fens. Demanding plants which grow at these lush spots are the Early Marsh-orchid (Dactylorhiza incarnata), the Broad-leaved Bog-cotton (Eriophorum latifolium) and the Common Twayblade (Listera ovata).
Inhabitants of Old-growth Forests
The backwoods of Hiidenportti National Park are the ideal place for animals to escape to from the onslaught of civilisation. The bear, the wolverine and the lynx are permanent inhabitants of the backwoods as is the pine marten. Wolves tend to wander in the area. Beavers build their dams undisturbed in the National Park's streams. There is a large Eurasian elk population in Hiidenportti.
Birds of the National Park
The majority of birds in the National Park are those indigenous to the east and north. The Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) is the only southern species there. Its clear song can be heard in the lush hillside forests of Porttijokilaakso River Valley. The most common birds in Hiidenportti National Park are the Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), the Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), Siskin (Carduelis spinus) the Spotted Flycatcher (Muscicapa striata) and the Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis). Some species which are rare in the area, but valuable in respect.
There are many species in the National Park, which require old-growth forests in order to survive. Some species, which are abundant in the old spruce forests, are the Robin (Erithacus rubecula) the Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) and the Wood Warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix). Other species seen there are the Goshawk (Accipiter gentilis), the Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) and the Siberian Jay (Perisoreus infaustus); the last of which is very curious and will spy on visitors from tree tops. The most common tetraonids are the Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and the Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia). If visitors are lucky they may happen upon a rare Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus). Finland is on the edge of its natural habitat. The Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) on the other hand is common and can be seen especially when there are many moles around.
There are not many different birds in the National Park's mires. For example species such as the European Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis) and the Yellow Wagtail (Motacilla flava), which are typical of Finland's mires are almost completely missing from Hiidenportti National Park. The Wood Sandpiper (Tringa glareola) is the National Park's most typical wader there.
Butterflies, Moths and Beetles
Hiidenportti National Park and its surrounding areas are ideal for butterflies and moths to inhabit as the area has stayed in its natural state. The butterfly species of the area are those of middle boreal coniferous zone and there are also some southern species.
A study done in 1992 found that there were 164 species of large butterflies and 186 species of small butterflies in Hiidenportti National Park. For example the Swallowtail (Papilio machaon), the Burnished Brass (Diachrysia chrysitis), Eurasian Emperor Moth (Saturnia pavonia) and the threatened Xestia sincera.
The beetle species of the area are, like the area's butterflies, species indigenous to the middle boreal coniferous forests with a strong southern streak. In the 1992 study researchers found the ground beetle Harpalus solitaris and Amara nigricornis. Researchers found eight threatened species of beetles, such as the Ceruchus chrysomelinus and the Leptura nigripes.
The most valuable traditional landscapes on state-owned lands in the Kainuu area are on the grounds of a former wilderness croft on the slope of Kovasinvaara Hill. The meadows there have for the most part high grass and rock ruins in their centre, a forest island and lone spruce trees. Junipers are very common. In addition to dry and wet meadows Kovasinvaara also has large areas where raspberries and Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium) grow, as well as, Couch grass (Agropyrum repens) and Tufted Hairgrass (Deschampsia cespitosa).
There are many interesting plants at Kovasinvaara Hill. Some plants found there are the Alpine Bistort (Bistorta vivipara, Polygonum viviparum), the Field Scabius (Knautia arvensis) and the Moonwort (Botrychium lunaria), as well as, the regionally near threatened Brown Knapweed (Centaurea jacea) and Leathery Grape Fern (Botrychium multifidum). The threatened Clustered Bellflower (Campanula glomerata) and Creeping Bellflower (Campanula rapunculoides) can also be found there.
Spruce trees have started to invade birch forests which surround the park's meadows. The forests have been used as grazing grounds since the slash-and-burn of the area ended.
Metsähallitus manages and restores traditional landscapes according to regulations in the management and use plan drawn up by the Ministry of the Environment. Natural Heritage Services Ostrobothnia-Kainuu started managing the meadows surrounding Kovasinvaara Hill in 1999.
Also other measures have been taken to restore the cultural heritage and traditional landscapes. A small area of slash-and-burn cultivation was prepared and burnt at Kovasinvaara in 2011. The trees were felled and burned and the seeds of turnip and rye planted in soil fertilized with ash. In 2012 the rye was cut according to traditions by "sirppi", a sickle, and dried in "kuhilas", a pile of sheaves.
The Great Grey Owl (Strix nebulosa) in Hiidenportti National Park
Hiidenportti National Park emblem bird the Great Grey Owl can be seen most likely where there is a mass gathering of moles. It would be wise to keep a distance between yourself and these quaint birds, as mothers protect their young quite aggressively.
The Great Grey Owl inhabits the Taiga Zones of Europe, Asia and North America. A few owls nest in Finland at irregular intervals in coniferous forests.
The Great Grey Owl is a somewhat mythic creature, with a gigantic head and long tail. It is said to look evil. The owl is enormous, almost as large as the Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo). The Great Grey Owl is 65 to 70 cm tall and has a wingspan of 135 to 160 cm.
When in flight the Great Grey Owl's head is what draws attention to it. If seen head-on it looks like it has no body. Its wings are wide and have a yellow patch near the tips.
The male Great Grey Owl's mating call is a series of about 10 whooo cries at one second intervals. The sound is very low and hollow. The sound is lower pitched and quieter towards the end of this series. The female answers with a meek tsjipp-tsjipp-tsjipp.
Nesting and the Young
The nest of the Great Grey Owl is situated in a forest close to a clearing. If possible it prefers to nest in an old nest of some other bird of prey or in a tree stump of a fallen tree. The female lays 3 to 6 eggs and sits on them for about one month. During this time the male feeds his mate as well as his young during their first few of weeks of life. The young leave the nest already 20 to 28 days after hatching, but are unable to fly until they are 60 to 65 days old. They are dependant on their mothers for many months even after this.
Though it is large the Great Grey Owl is specialised in hunting moles. It attacks its prey from a good lookout. In winter it attacks through snow and uses only its hearing to determine its prey's direct location.