The Nature Reserve Lake Joutenvesi is a backwoods-like water excursion destination located between two of Finland's national parks. Together with Kolovesi and Linnansaari National Parks it is this region is a magnificent whole landscape as well as conservation wise. The Heinävesi Water Route runs through the area. It is known to be one of Finland's most beautiful boating routes. Today the area's islands are for the most part uninhabited. Together with the more eastern Lake Pyyvesi, Joutenvesi is part of the Joutenvesi - Pyyvesi Natura 2000 site. Lake Pyyvesi offers a connecting route to Lake Paasivesi.
At Joutenvesi visitors can enjoy canoeing or try to spot a rare Saimaa Ringed Seal. Visitors can set off on their own canoe excursions or take part in an organised group excursion, which local tourist enterprises arrange (Services Offered by Enterprises and Organisations in Linnansaari and Kolovesi National Parks). When on the water visitors have the chance to visit Lake Haukivesi in Linnansaari National Park by canoeing down the River Tappuravirta and through the Oravi and Haponlahti Canals. To get to Kolovesi National Park canoe through the north part of Lake Heinävedenselkä. Canoeing and water excursions in the area are Everyman's Rights (www.ymparisto.fi). There are no hiking trails or excursion harbours in the area.
Lake Joutenvesi was named after the swans that visit it (joutsen is Finnish for swan). Lake Joutenvesi is characterised by sounds with swift currents and its labyrinth of islands. There is an abundance of islands in the lake. They are varying in size from small reefs to land masses with an area of 2 hectares. Therefore there are long stretches of shoreline in the area and open cliffs are also typical of the area. The rugged lake is a mix of crystal clear water flowing from the north and the murkier waters coming from Lake Pielinen. The Common Tern (Sterna hirundo) nests in the islands and an Arctic Loon's (Gavia arctica) nest may well be found at the water's edge. The two birds of prey which can be seen gliding through the area's skies are the Western Honey Buzzard (Pernis apivorus) and the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus).
The state-owned lands in Joutenvesi are for the most part located on the lake's western and northern islands. The state owns approximately 14 sq. km of land and 60 hectares of water area. In the eastern part of the area there are more privately owned protected areas, which cover a combined area of 12 sq. km.
The Saimaa Ringed Seal Thrives at Joutenvesi
The endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida saimensis) has chosen Joutenvesi as its nesting habitat. Seals favour the snow banks on the area's building free shorelines for their nesting sites. Joutenvesi is believed to be home to about 10% of the Saimaa Ringed Seal population. This equals to between 20 and 25 individuals. Numerous agreements on fishing restrictions have been made with the area's fishing cooperatives in order to help protect the seal population. The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry has set statutes that forbid the use of some fishing devices as well of some sorts of fishing.
Old Fields and Other Reminders of Previous Life in the Area
All of the lakes larger islands have forested or abandoned fields, which are reminders of when agriculture was practiced in the area. Old fields can be recognised as either old fields are dominated now by birch and spruce trees or have trees growing on them in straight planted lines. Today old fields are a growing place for the threatened Bristly Bellflower (Campanula cervicaria). Also the threatened Fragrant Orchid, which is a tall and magnificent plant found in herb-rich forests has been found in the area. A settlement dating from the Early Metal Age as well as several tar pits and hole traps discovered in Joutenvesi have been protected under the Antiquities Act.
Prior Commercial Use of the Area's Forest's Still Visible
Up until recently the forests on the area's islands have been used for commercial forestry. In past times wood was needed to run for example the iron works in Oravi. Today the majority of the area's forests are young spruce dominated heathland forests, which grow in small islets. Signs of logging and forestry are still visible in the landscape as over half of the forests are of one tree specie and all the forests are almost completely void of dead decaying trees.
The Northern Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) and the Ural Owl (Strix uralensis) prey in the area. The Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus) and the Hazel Grouse (Bonasa bonasia) nest at Joutenvesi.
There are also a few mires in the Joutenvesi area. The small mires are located in grooves at the bottom of slopes or on the shoreline. The open cliffs on the shores make way for lush deciduous forest or rugged pine forests right on the edge of the water. Though the forests are coniferous dominated they do have some birch and other deciduous trees within them. On the islands there are well lit herb-rich forests in which the threatened Ghost Orchid (Epipogium aphyllum) and Green Spleenwort (Coeloglossum viride) thrive. At points linden trees form small forest islets. The Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) thrives in deciduous forests and even the timid Lesser Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor) which is classified as vulnerable has been spotted in the area.
Restoration of State-owned Lands in Joutenvesi
The main goal of restoration (www.metsa.fi) is to erase the features left by commercial forestry and help the area return to its natural state. Restoration measures such as cutting down small patches of trees to allow them renew and adding to an area's amount of decaying wood, were carried out on an area measuring 112 hectares in the autumn of 2006. This restoration work was done as part of the Metsä-Life Project (www.metsa.fi, in finnish). The restoration work was centred on the seven large islands (Kangassaari Tikansaari, Mäntysaari, Muuraissaari, Kontiosaari, Niittysaari and Kuivisto) situated on the edges of Kotkaselkä and Koivusaarenselkä. In addition to restoration work some other work has been carried out at Joutenvesi, some herb-rich forest management has taken place, growth space has been cleared for the Small-leaved Linden (Tilia cordata) and the growth places for the threatened Bristly Bellflower have been managed. When visiting the restored areas you should be cautious around trees which have had bark carved from their trunks, as these trees die within a few years and fall down.