A large part of the Repovesi area has been owned and used by the forest industry. Some parts, however, in the middle of lakes, ponds, streams and small spruce and pine mires, have been left untouched. The forests of Repovesi National Park vary from old-growth pine to young sapling stands. With new conservation measures some commercial forests are now being restored to their natural state (www.metsa.fi).
Many Species Thrive Deep in the Forests
Over half of Repovesi's trees are pines. In these pine-dominated heaths lingonberries, blueberries, lichens and moss thrive. Crustose lichens such as Arctoparmelia centrifuga spread over surface rock in green-grey circles and Cladonia coccifera´s bright red ends shine on the ground. Rare mushrooms can be found if one knows to look for Melanoleuca verrucipes in moose faeces or for Beaked Earthstars (Geastrum pectinatum) in anthills. Also many different species of animals inhabit the heaths of Repovesi National Park in abundance.
The fox in Repovesi
In Repovesi National Park's patchwork of high rocks, compact mires and rugged lakes lives a rather crafty soul made famous in folk tales, i.e. the fox. This russet canine has called Finland home for millennia. The fox is believed to have returned to Finland right after the Ice Age, along with the first mammal species. At the same time, the moose and wild hare also arrived from the southeast.
The fox is not as skittish as many other predators. Particularly at dusk or night, you might come across a fox on its nightly hunt. Its characteristic bushy tail, long legs and a more slender build than the raccoon dog help to distinguish the shadowy figure slinking in the darkness. Although foxes primarily feed on rodents, as omnivores, they also eat plants, berries and carrion. Foxes sometime bring prey into their dens to feed their cubs or store it in a cache for a later meal. Foxes dig out their own dens or they might also move into a cub warren made by another animal. It is also common for foxes to settle into a naturally-formed den, which might be connected to other holes that serve as their food cache. Foxes typically have litters of 2-12 cubs.
A thick, long tail indicates that the fox is healthy. When cold weather closes in, foxes curl up into a ball, using the tail to protect their paws and muzzle. If animals competed in track and field, the fox would be the sure winner in at least one event - the broad jump. Foxes, which pounce head first into the snow, are not only effective predators - they are fun to watch! Foxes generally trot. In the winter, fox tracks, dotting the snow like a string of pearls, reveal what they have been up to. Like the tracks of many wild canines, fox footprints have 4 toes with each claw showing quite clearly in front of each toeprint.
In Finnish folk tales, the fox is usually portrayed as a wily, clever and resourceful creature. It is widely considered to be a difficult animal to hunt. According to some folk beliefs, the fox is also responsible for causing the Northern Lights. The fur of an ancient fire-fox was believed to have made sparks as it brushed up against the fells of Lapland, thus setting the night sky alight with shimmering colours. Whereas many other languages refer to the northern location of the lights, the Finnish word for the Northern Lights, or 'Revontulet' comes from the ancient Finnish word for fox - Repo, i.e. 'fox fires'.
The Flying Squirrel and Birds Favoring Old-growth Forests
The oldest pines in Repovesi National Park are over 200 years old. They have not been logged because they grow on steep rocky hillsides. Birds that inhabit the haven of the old-growth forest are the Greenish Warbler (Phylloscopus trochiloides), the Red-breasted Flycatcher (Ficedula parva) and the Coal Tit (Parus ater). The Black Woodpecker (Dryocopus martius) can also be seen and heard quite often. The Three-toed Woodpecker (Picoides tridactylus) is the quiet pecker of the old pine forests. The bird that has most recently arrived at Repovesi is the Grey-headed Woodpecker (Picus canus).
Europe's smallest owl the Eurasian Pygmy-Owl (Glaucidium passerinum) nests in shadowy spruce forests, often in the Great Spotted Woodpecker's (Dendrocops major) old nesting holes. The Eurasian Eagle Owl (Bubo bubo) on the other hand lives on grand cliffs. Especially in March owls spend bright starlit nights calling out their mating calls. The Repovesi area's largest birds of prey, which hunt by day, are the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) and the Northern Goshawk (Accipiter gentiles).
A virile colony of Siberian Flying squirrels (Pteromys volans) lives in the Repovesi area. This timid animal inhabits old spruce dominated mixed forests, which offer safety from birds of prey and Pine martens (Martes martes). In birch forests Flying squirrels find food and shelter in a woodpecker's old nesting-hole.
The Cry of the Red-throated Diver - A well known resident in the area
One of Finland's most populated Red-throated Diver (Gavia stellata) colonies nests on forest ponds in Repovesi National Park. The Red-throated Diver migrates to Repovesi in April or May to nest. They inhabit the mire-like shores of small lakes and ponds or sometimes on the edge of small pools in the middle of mires. Red-throated Divers are so loud at stating their intentions during mating season that hikers camping nearby will find it difficult to sleep. Especially at Lake Olhavanlampi the sounds echo off of cliffs.
Life at the Ponds of the Red-throated Diver
In May and June the Red-Throated Diver (Gavia stellata) has its brooding season. It sits on its eggs in a nest, a top a floating turf island. In Repovesi National Park floating turf islands have been built to make sure these birds to have better nesting conditions. They tend to stay on their turf islands, where they are safe from nest thieves. After hatching the chicks practice swimming in the middle of water lilies.
The Red-Throated Diver can dive for up to one minute at a time. It fishes by diving in the clear waters of the National Park's larger lakes. It feeds on small fish such as the Roach (Rutilus rutilus) and the Perch (Perca fluviatilis). It cackles loudly as it flies across lakes.
The Red-Throated Diver is a gaviforme. Its close relative the Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica) also nests at Repovesi. The Red-Throated Diver is smaller than its relative, about 53 to 69 cm long with a wingspan of 106 to 116 cm. Its distinguishing features are a dark brown back, grey head and a rust-red spot on its head, which can seem black from farther away. During winter they and their young are much lighter coloured than in summer.
While in flight the Red-Throated Diver's head stretches out in front of it and its neck hangs slightly lower. Its bearing is not very graceful. In October - December they fly south in small flocks. In spring around 1,000 mating pairs return to Finland.
In recent years the number of Red-Throated Divers has fallen both in Finland and in the rest of Europe. Over ten mating pairs nest in Repovesi National Park. In Finland drainage resulting in the fall of water level in small lakes and ponds has caused problems for the Red-Throated Diver. The shores of ponds have become too steep for them. Hikers should remember that as a wild bird the Red-Throated Diver suffers from the disturbances caused by man. These like other birds should given their peace and observed from a distance.
Between high cliffs there are lush grove-like forests. In these areas the Littleleaf Linden (Tilia cordata), which is a rarity, can be found. On summer nights the wonderful smell of the Lesser Butterfly-Orchid (Platanthera bifolia) wafts over the herb-rich forests.
Spring floods on the one hand and dams built by Canadian Beavers (Castor Canadensis) on the other have caused flood meadows with common alder (Alnus glutinosa) to form around streams. These are cool and murky places even on sunny summer days. Birches tend to die standing up in flood meadows, which creates a superb environment for tinder polypore (Fomes fomentarius), birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus) and Phellinus igniarius.
Extraordinary Cliffs and Rocks
Movement of the earth's crust, the Ice Age and erosion have all helped form the cliffs of Repovesi, which are unique in composition and look. For example, at Olhavanvuori Rock the cliff-face has obvious marks left by shifting glaciers. On the north-side of the Lapinsalmi hanging bridge there is a contact, where two rock types meet. The rock on the north-side of this contact is hard granite typical of Central Finland. The rock on the south-side is the world's largest deposit of rapakivi called Vyborg rapakivi, which is a very rare rock type.
Granite and Rapakivi
The granite in the Repovesi area is about 1,900 million years old. The granite typically chips and splits at right angles and has in this way formed the massive rock formations at Repovesi. When the sun is shining its light plays on the rock faces, and new shadows bring out new shapes. Fallen rocks have formed a boulder soil on the shore at Kuutinlahti Bay.
At Lapinsalmi Parking Area visitors get a chance to see the unique structure of rough red granite called rapakivi. The Repovesi area south of Lapinsalmi Sound is part of the largest occurrence of rapakivi in Finland, called Vyborg rapakivi. Finland has the largest deposit of this rare rock type in the whole world. The Finnish word has become an international geological term. Rapakivi is a type of granite, which can be distinguished not only by its unique structure, but by its high fluoride content.