Logging and Slash-and-burn Agriculture
Islands in Lake Haukivesi in the 1600s and 1700s
The 60-Year-Old History of Linnansaari as a National Park

In the 1850s Linnansaari Island belonged to the Waahersalo estate. The island was the largest one in Lake Haukivesi owned by the estate and it was used from at least the 1700s onward as slash-and-burn lands, hay fields and pastures. The island was uninhabited until Linnansaari's first tenant farmer Adolf Lyytikäinen moved there in 1852. Adolf built a log cabin with the help of his brother Matti on the slash-and-burn clearing, which in time expanded to the modern croft. There have been many tenant farmers at the croft over the decades. At times it also functioned as lodging for loggers. The state purchased the croft in 1913 to act as a forest ranger farm.

The croft's grounds are cared for by harvesting hay with scythes. The hay from the meadow is dried on shocks. Photo: Hanne Liukko

The croft ceased being a forest ranger farm in 1936 and Oskari Parviainen the last forest ranger who had worked there and was thus out of a job had to fight to keep the farm for himself. He finally managed to secure it for himself in 1940. After Oskari's son died in the Continuation War the croft farm stood empty. It was then rented to farmers until the 1950s when it was abandoned. The state bought Louhimaa farm as it was then called from Oskari Parviainen's heirs in 1975, and it then became part of Linnansaari National Park. Today Linnansaari Croft is open to the public.

Logging and Slash-and-burn Agriculture

The abundance of deciduous forests in Linnansaari National Park is a clear indication of the areas long history of slash-and-burn agriculture. For example there was no spruce forest on the main island in the 1850s. At that time there were 55 hectares of slash-and-burn lands in the area, which accounts for approximately 10% of Linnansaari's entire area. At the turn of the century the price of wood and its transportation rose quickly in Eastern Finland. In 1905 the forests in Linnansaari were bought as part of the lands of Waahersalo estate by a limited company called Collin. The company carried out a large-scale logging project cutting down all trees of suitable size with no heed for conserving. When the state purchased Linnansaari and other islands in 1915 the condition of the forests was very poor. A.J. Valkama a district forest surveyor reported in 1926 that the Linnansaari wood reserves were very small and renewal was poor. Hill slopes were rich growth land and had lush green-leafed forest. For the most part alder and small birch grow there.

No smoke without fire! The smoke rising from the slash-and-burn area shows the traditional landscape is being managed. Photo: Pekka Innanen

To restore the forests the state decided to rent for a small sum patches of land to those who wanted to practice slash-and-burn agriculture there. Slash-and-burn continued in the area up to the 1940s. The people to do this most actively were the forest ranger's family. The last commercial forestry in the area took place in 1955, when felling was carried out on a 31 hectare area on the main island to improve growth. The restoration of slash-and-burn forests began in 1993.

How Islands in Lake Haukivesi Were Utilised in the 1600s and 1700s

Slash-and-burn Fields and Shore Meadows in the 1600s

A document called Habermananin maakirja from the 1620s gives a wonderful account of the early days of the islands in Lake Haukivesi. The document was drawn up as a land survey to check taxes with. It gives accounts of residents in the village of Rantasalmi and surrounding villages. It had information on how much farm land each owned and about slash-and-burn lands which were located away from people's farms.

The document, which was drawn up by Johan Haberman, tells much about the use of the islands in Haukivesi. For example that many of the islands that are part of Linnansaari National Park had slash-and-burn lands as well as natural meadows which people gathered hay from. Some of the slash-and-burn lands and natural meadows were owned by individual farmers, some on the other hand were owned by work co-operative or slash-and-burn enterprise made up of several farmers. For example on islands such as Huusalo, Lehtikiukas and Vuorikiukas at the north west corner of the National Park there were slash-and-burn lands which belonged to slash-and-burn enterprises owned by as many as 10 men. The slash-and-burn lands in the area were smaller than usual; each was at most a hectare.

The slash-and-burn lands and meadows were cared for by the residents of several villages which were located close to Haukivesi. Islands located in the central and south east part of the park (Kaitasaari, Laattaansaari, Hevossalo, Lamposaari, Pirttisaari, Pöllänsaari, Tuunaansaari, Iso-Tuunaa, Linnansaari, Laivosaari, Issakka, Iso-Kontio, Jänissaari, Käärmeluoto, and possibly Itä-Honkanen or Päivä-Honkanen) were usually cared for and managed by residents of the villages of Vaahersalo and Putkisalo.

Islands located in the northwest part of the National Park were managed by the farmers from the villages of Rantasalmi, Heinävesi, Kerisalo, Kotkatlahti, Voinsalmi and Jurvala. Slash-and-burn lands and meadows owned by farmers from these villages were located at least of the islands of Huusalo, Vuorikiukas, Lehtikiukas, Huuhinsaari, Horkansaari, Kytösaari, Kusiaisluoto, Honka-Pellavi, Lehti-Pellavi, Jänissaari, Ketvelsaari and also possibly on the islands of Suuri-Pöljä or Pieni-Pöljä and Paavalinsaari.

Haukivesi Islands a Safe Haven in the 1700s

During the war started by Gustav III in 1778 residents of Rantasalmi are told to have fled their homes on June 22nd after Russian troops threatened to converge on them. They fled to the islands in Lake Haukivesi. But when the Russian troops did not descend on their homes most people returned to the mainland for Midsummer.

The 60-Year-Old History of Linnansaari as a National Park

How the Linnansaari National Park was Established and Expanded

Linnansaari National Park in the middle of Lake Haukivesi, a part of greater Saimaa Lake complex, was founded in 1956. It encompassed most of Waahersalo Park which was up till then managed by the Savonlinna District Forest Service. A ship lane crossed through the Linnansaari islands already in the 1800s. The Heinävesi Water Route, which connects Lake Haukivesi and Lake Kallavesi, was completed in 1906.

The first years of the National Park's existence were a quiet time. Savonlinna District Forest Service makes no mention in its annual report of the National Park being established. The birth of the National Park was an unfamiliar concept to the locals in these early years. Local papers did not even have stories to promote summer tourism in the area. The year the park was established the state hired two park-keepers in the archipelago. In 1961 Linnansaari was partitioned off into its own supervision district and the area's first supervisor was named. The National Park's first ranger was Eino Heiskanen, a fisherman from Porosalmi village in Rantasalmi.  The Louhimaa farm (Linnansaari Croft) was acquired by the state and became a part of the park in 1975.

The state tried to limit the use of National Parks to those things which would not harm the areas' nature. The foundation for the park's care was set in its first management plan in 1977. The main purpose of the National Park was deemed the conservation of areas in their natural state and endorsing the restoration of the main island's cultural landscape and caring for it as a public tourist sight. The group in charge of the park began to develop Linnansaari Island as the main tourist destination in the National Park.

The state-appointed National Park Committee proposed in 1976 that Linnansaari National Park be expanded, because the archipelago in Lake Haukivesi was an internationally significant lake landscape entirety. Reasons for this were the ever changing landscape and diverse natural features of the area and because it was a central breeding ground for the endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal.

In 1978 the government made a decision in principle to expand Linnansaari National Park on the basis of the proposal made by the National Park Committee. It was decided that the National Park be expanded so that its full area was 3,800 hectares. All the areas which were added to Linnansaari were not owned by the state but they were acquired in bits. The law that made the expansion legal came into force at the beginning of 1982.

Linnansaari National Park, Lakeland Nature at Its Best

The National Park has many sets of islets and rocky islands with their birds as well as hundreds of islands with lush herb-rich forests. Long-term slash-and-burn agriculture, old style farming of fields and grazing livestock in pastures have ensured that there are many forms of traditional vegetation: fresh and damp meadows, pastures and slash-and-burn forests. Care and management of meadows was initiated at Linnansaari Croft, by cutting the hay on its grounds. Restoration of slash-and-burn forests began in 1993: there had been a long break since the last fires had been set there. We are aiming to conserve the cultural landscape on Linnansaari Island in the condition it was at the beginning of the 1900s.

The area's bays are the home of the National Park's most unique treasure; the Saimaa Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida saimensis). Hikers often ponder if they will be lucky enough during each visit to see a seal's head pop up from the water. Ringed seals spend much of their lives under the water's surface. Linnansaari National Park is one of the Saimaa Ringed-seal's most important habitats.Hikers at Sammakkoniemi Camping Ground. Photo: Hanne Liukko

Visitors do not need their own boats to visit the islands and enjoy the lake-landscape of the National Park. During summer regular public transportation boats travel in Haukivesi. The popular Sammakkoniemi Camping Ground has cabins and visitors can lodge there as soon as the waters melt after winter. The National Park is a wonderful destination year-round. Tour skating is growing in popularity and Linnansaari offers wonderful opportunities for this activity. Local nature tourism enterprises maintain a skating route which leads through the National Park. There were an estimated 30 000 visits to Linnansaari National Park in the year 2015.


  • Vauramo Anu: Linnansaaren torppa, Metsähallitus, 1994
  • Kumpulainen Jouni: Linnansaaren kansallispuiston historiaselvitys, Metsähallitus 2006

More Information


Linnansaari National Park

  • Established 1956                                           Publications of Linnansaari National Park
  • Area 97 km²                                                    (https://julkaisut.metsa.fi/julkaisut?Text=linnansaari)

The Emblem of Linnansaari National Park - Saimaa Ringed Seal

The Emblem of Linnansaari National Park is Saimaa Ringed Seal