Sights and history in Bothnian Bay National Park

A person leaning against the door frame of the museum. Fishing nets in the background.

Sights in the Bothnian Bay National Park

Land uplift and the sea continue to shape the scenery in the Bothnian Bay area. People have also left their trace in the scenery. Soon after the islands had emerged from the sea, people probably started visiting them, and it is possible that there was temporary settlement on the highest islands at the end of the 16th century or in the early 17th century. Consequently, there are ancient relics, i.e., signs of human activities, on many islands. Visitors may see bases of old buildings, areas where fishing nets were dried, as well as supporting stones for seamarks. 

The national park's most significant and popular cultural historical destinations – i.e. the old fishing bases and the Piispankivi boundary marker ‒ are located on the islands of Selkä-Sarvi, Pensaskari and Iso-Huituri. 

Fishing Bases 

At the restored fishing bases on the islands of Selkä-Sarvi and Pensaskari, you can take a look at the cultural landscape shaped by the old fishing culture and learn about the local cultural history. The buildings and their objects, which are now museum objects, provide information on the vibrant fishing culture of the past, but also on the change that took place in the traditional fishing culture when new gear and materials were introduced. 

Selkä-Sarvi Fishing Base 

The Selkä-Sarvi fishing base is the most extensive ancient monument site in the Bothnian Bay National Park. The site is located in the southern part of Selkä-Sarvi Island. 

During the past few centuries, there have been two booms in the Bothnian Bay Archipelago and in the fishing history of the area. One of them took place when some Hailuoto islanders arrived in the area towards the end of the 19th century, and the other during the Great Depression in the 1930s. Consequently, the building stock of the Selkä-Sarvi fishing village was at its largest in the 19th century, but the village was still densely built in the 1930s and the 1940s. However, many of the buildings in the village did not stand there for long, as parts of redundant buildings were taken and used elsewhere. 

The Ailinpieti fishing hut on Selkä-Sarvi Island was built in the 1860s. The hut is regarded as a unique representative of the hut building tradition of the 19th century. The history of the other buildings located close to the Ailinpieti hut is also fascinating. The Kalla Open Wilderness Hut, owned by Metsähallitus, has been built using logs of a hut that was larger than the current hut. The logs were cut behind the corner joints. This partly explains the small size of the building. Kokko Rental Hut, owned by Metsähallitus, was built to function as a fishing gear storage in the 1930s. Kokko was made suitable for accommodation in the early 1960s. The former Jauhola shop or salting shed, which is located next to the Ailinpieti fishing hut, was built in the year of 1930. In the 1960s, the conversion of the salting shed into a fishing hut was started but the work was not completed. Later on, the walls and the roof have been renovated.

Besides the buildings and their bases, you can also see former boat docks and cuttings in rocks on Selkä-Sarvi Island. Selkä-Sarvi also boasts two sundials that have been cut into the rock. One of them is located at the former fishing base, the other at the island's highest point.

  • The Ailinpieti hut is always open. There are no staff on site.

Pensaskari Fishing Base 

There has been a fishing base on Pensaskari Island since the early 18th century. The fishing base includes a hut, a sauna, two storages for fishing nets and gear, a cold cellar and racks for drying fishing nets. Fishing was practised until the 1980s.

One of the island's fishing gear storages boasts an exhibition that displays the fishing culture of the past. The objects, the old photographs and the fishermen's stories tell about the daily life in the past. Most of the objects are donations from local fishermen. 

  • Some of the buildings at the Pensaskari fishing base are open in summer and they can be visited free of charge. The fishing gear exhibition is open by prior agreement. Some of the Metsähallitus' partners may open the exhibition in connection with a cruise, for example. Further information is available from the entrepreneurs and Liminka Bay Visitor Centre, +358 206 39 6059, 


The Piispankivi boundary marker is considered to be the most significant ancient monument in the Bothnian Bay National Park. Piispankivi is located in the northern part of Iso-Huituri Island. Built from large stones, the Piispankivi boundary marker is about six metres long and more than two metres tall. Piispankivi is regarded as a boundary marker of the dioceses of Turku and Uppsala and as a memorial of the setting of the boundaries of these dioceses. Piispankivi probably dates back to the 14th century.

Further information on the history and natural features of the Bothnian Bay National Park is available in Metsähallitus' publications on the Bothnian Bay National Park.


Fishing and hunting

Ever since the park's islands were formed, they have been used as seasonal bases by fishers and hunters. They moved to the islands for the duration of the fishing season, as the waters suitable for fishing were so far from the mainland. For instance, the fishing village at the southern tip of Selkä-Sarvi Island has probably been used in this way for seasonal fishing from the late 1500s. It is said that over 300 people inhabited the village during years of poor harvest.

During fishing season fishermen sometimes lived in the base camps for months at a time, without visiting the mainland. Salmon (Salmo salar) and Baltic herring (Clupea harengus membras) were the most common catches in the outer archipelago. The catch was salted and stored in wooden barrels. The nets the fishermen used were made out of organic materials and had to be dried each time they returned to the base.

At the beginning of the 20th Century motor boats became more common and fishermen could reach the archipelago daily from the mainland. The seasonal base camps were left deserted. Now fresh fish replaced the previously typical salted salmon and herring at market places.

Traditional landscapes 

The inhabitants of these fishing base camps also brought livestock with them. They grazed freely on the islands and thus created the traditional landscapes of pastures and dry meadows.

Traditional landscapes and an old building-style are still evident at the fishing bases on the islands of Selkäsarvi, Pensaskari and Iso-Huituri.


During the prohibition (1919-1932) the islands were used by smugglers as bases and places to hide their stash. Today ditches are visible where there once were alcohol cellars. The Pirtumatala reef was named during the prohibition when a German ship, the s/s Klara, carrying ‘pirtu', an illegal spirit, sunk there during a storm in 1924.

Ghost stories

According to word of mouth a ghost wandered around the island of Selkä-Sarvi. She was thought to have been a drowned wife of a fisherman. There are similar stories of ghosts from other islands in the area. They were not necessarily ill-spirited, although stories of them were told to scare local children. There is a story that a ghost woke a fisher, sleeping on an islet, just as his boat was about to be swept away by the rising tide.