Natural Features of Valtavaara-Pyhävaara

Species of Lush Herb-rich Forests and Jagged Cliffs

The hills and fells in the Ruka-Valtavaara area are remnants of the ancient Svekokarelid Mountains. The only evidence left of these mountains is their worn roots, which are made-up of the hardest rock types. The area for the most part is located higher than the rest of Kuusamo which makes the range of species diverse. There are barren cliff, spruce forests and marshy depressions. The highest hills in Kuusamo are located in the Ruka-Valtavaara hill chain. Valtavaara, the highest point, reaches an altitude of 492 metres.

Alpine azalea blooms in Valtavaara in the middle of the summer. Photo: Minna Koramo

As the rock bed in the area is calciferous and the area's microclimate is extremely damp vegetation is lush and versatile. There is a vast range of fell vegetation as these hills have the same kind of rock and earth as in southern regions and therefore the perfect conditions for alpine plants. This region has a mix of northern and southern species, which is unique within Finland. Some fell plant species which appear in Valtavaara Nature Reserve are the Three-leaved Rush (Juncus trifidus), the Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens), the Blue (Mountain) Heath (Phyllodoce caerulea) and the Black Bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina).

A Bulls Eye for Bird Watching

Valtavaara Nature Reserve is known especially for its birds and you will likely encounter bird watchers with binoculars in the hilly landscape. The birdlife in the area is an abundant spruce forest population. The area's herb-rich forests are brought to life by the song of southern bird species. The Red-flanked Bluetail (Tarsiger cyanurus) could be considered the symbol of the area. It nests in the area each year with differing abundance, but for the mean while it is a definite inhabitant every year. Other interesting species are the Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) and the Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides).

Red-flanked Bluetail is a rarity of Valtavaara. Photo: Jyrki Mäkelä