Lake Pihlajavesi, which is a part of greater Saimaa lake complex, reaches to the southern side of the town of Savonlinna. The area is almost 20 km wide and about 40 km long. The diverse lake landscape consists of several large islands and thousands of small islets. Because of the Ice Age, the rocky archipelago seems to be organised in lines from southeast to northwest. The rugged scenery is dominated by barren pine forests, which grow on the rocks. Behind the rocks, there are lush mixed-wood forests and herb-rich forests in the inner parts of the islands. The largest islands of Lake Pihlajavesi are inhabited around the year.

A beautiful sight of Pihlajavesi. Photo: Tapio Tuomela

The Endangered Saimaa Ringed Seal - the Treasure of the Archipelago

If you move quietly on the lake, and if you are lucky as well, you might see the Saimaa ringed seal (Phoca hispida saimensis). It is a curious animal, and may stay to watch people for a while, but usually it soon dives and disappears under the water again. About 60 individuals live on Lake Pihlajavesi, which is one of the core areas of its distribution. About 15 young seals are born every year in the area. Because Saimaa ringed seals need peace when they nest in the winter, people should avoid moving - especially by snow mobiles - on the shores where they nest. Usually a Saimaa ringed seal lives for about 20 years, but some have lived as long as 30 years.

Valuable Bird Islets

About 200 bird species nest on Lake Pihlajavesi. Gulls and terns live on the valuable bird islets of the open water areas. Landing on small islands and islets should be avoided during the nesting season. The Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica), the Willow Warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), the Tree Pipit (Anthus trivialis), mergansers and finches favour the larger, more sheltered islands. The area is also busy during the migrations. Thousands of arctic birds fly across Lake Pihlajavesi every year.