The Päijänne National Park is nestled next to Lake Päijänne. The handsome Kelvenne island and 50 or so other islands and islets conceal enchanting sandy beaches, lagoon-like coves and bird populations.
The island of Kelvenne, the heart of the National Park
By its geology and landscape, the park can be divided into two different parts; some of the islands are part of longitudinal esker systems and have sandy shores. Other islands consist of rock and moraine, which is typical for the hilly Päijänne region. The most popular destination for visitors is the island of Kelvenne, one of the largest and most impressive esker islands in Finland. Another remarkable and well-known sight is Pulkkilanharju Ridge, a chain of esker islands which forms the south-eastern gate to the National Park. The largest rocky islands are Iso Lammassaari and Haukkasalo, whose steep cliffs rise several dozen metres above the surface of Lake Päijänne.
The island of Kelvenne, the heart of the National Park, is the part which has the most interesting origins and vegetation in the area. It was formed of the gravel accumulated and sorted by the glacier streams of the latest Ice Age, while the continental ice sheet was slowly withdrawing towards north-west. The deep holes in the eskers, called kettle holes, were made by huge blocks of ice, which got buried in the sand during the Ice Age, and then slowly melted, leaving the cone-shaped holes. The "kettle hole bays", which are connected to Lake Päijänne, form deep and sheltered natural harbours, where landing is possible also by a keel boat.
Nearly 300 types of flowers
In many kettle holes in the esker on Kelvenne Island, the ground in the bottom has become swampy. One of the holes has turned into a small lake. Despite a few small open fens, the mires are small pine bogs, where the air is fragrant with the stunning scent of the white flowering Marsh tea (Ledum palustre). On the tops of the esker, water has not washed away the nutrients in the soil, so the most luxuriant forests on Kelvenne Island, dry herb-rich forests, are found on the tops of the esker. They are dominated by the Pine (Pinus sylvestris) or the Spruce (Picea abies), and the deciduous trees include the Birch (Betula), the Aspen (Populus tremula) and at some places quite abundant Littleleaf Linden (Tilia cordata).
On the ground of the herb-rich forests flower the Hepatica (Hepatica nobilis), the Lily-of-the-Valley (Convallaria majalis) and the Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca), around the Fly Honeysuckle (Lonicera xylosteum) and the Mountain currant (Ribes alpinum) bushes. The abundance of vetchlings (Lathyrus) and vetches (Vicia) is striking. Here and there you can see the beautiful Cinnamon Rose (Rosa majalis), the charming red Mezereon (Daphne mezereum) or the Herb-Paris (Paris quadrifolia), which lives in the shade.
On the slopes of Kelvenne, the ancient beach embankments circle round the esker at the altitude contour of about a hundred metres. Below that line grow rugged dry pine forests, typical for esker landscape. Before the National Park was established, the forests were in commercial use, which is why the tree stand is even-aged. However, the set of esker plant species is still impressive. In the middle of Lingonberries (Vaccinium vitis-idaea) and Reindeer lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) flower the Pale-green wintergreen (Pyrola chlorantha) and the Umbellate Wintergreen (Chimaphila umbellata). There also glow the yellow Spotted Cat´s-ear (Hypochoeris maculata) and the blue groups of Harebells (Campanula rotundifolia). The Common cow-wheat (Melampyrum pratense) is a typical plant for dry forests, and its yellow flowers dominate the lower slopes of the eskers in July and August.
The lesser black-backed gull at Päijänne
The emblem species of the National Park is the Lesser Black-backed Gull (Larus fuscus). The subspecies Larus fuscus is said to be the most Finnish bird, because the majority of them live inside the Finnish borders.
Unfortunately, this beautiful gull species has became fewer in numbers in recent years the inland waters of Finland. However, in the National Park area, the Lesser Black-backed Gull population has remained quite steady.
The many species of birds living on the islets
The most important areas of the National Park for the bird species are the small islands and islets, where many threatened bird species nest. The Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) is still quite common in the National Park area, but its nesting is rarely successful, because of disturbances. Also Merlin (Falco columbarius) and the Northern Hobby (Falco subbuteo) regularly nest on the small islands of the park.
Under the surface at Päijänne
The aquatic environment at Päijänne National Park is rugged. One of the most interesting underwater features of the Park is the island of Kelvenne and its associated ridges that run partially submerged all the way to Tupasaari island in the north and to the island of Ykskoivu in the south.
The underwater ridges are steep and pronounced, and on the islands you can also find bays and lagoons, which are popular stopping places for leisure boats. Especially in west, in the direction of Haukkasalo, there are impressive underwater cliffs and crevices.
Peek into the underwater nature of Päijänne:
Päijänne National Park
Area 14 km²
The Emblem of Päijänne National Park is Lesser Black-backed Gull