History and Sights of Hammastunturi Wilderness Area
Culture and Means of Livelihood
Two centuries ago, the utilisation of Hammastunturi area was based on hunting deer and other game animals, and fishing. In the beginning of the 1800s, there were plenty of reindeer in the northern and western parts of Inari, because these areas were winter pastures of the reindeer herding Sámi people. In the summer, the reindeer migrated to the Arctic Sea to have their calves and graze on the coast, where there are no mosquitoes. In the 1852, the border was closed between Norway and Finland, and this gradually stopped the traditional migration between the summer and winter pastures, which made many Sámi families move to completely new areas in the northern Sweden and the northern Finland. Nowadays, Hammastunturi area is still important in reindeer herding, with the reindeer owners' associations of Hammastunturi, Ivalo, Lappi, Kuivasalmi and Sallivaara working in the area. Reindeer herding is one of the most important means of livelihood, and the principal and additional income, which it brings, makes it possible for the villages to stay inhabited.
Nowadays the village of Kuttura is the only village inhabited around the year in Hammastunturi Wilderness Area. The village is surrounded by old meadows, many of which are still mowed. The original northern species, and southerns plants transported by people, are represented in the vegetation of these meadows. Road was built to the village of Kuttura in 1959, thanks to president Kekkonen who visited the village in 1956 on his skiing trip.
Gold digging has left permanent marks in Hammastunturi Wilderness Area. The first people to find gold around River Ivalojoki were on an expedition sent by the state in 1868. Official gold panning monitored by the state began in 1870, and in the same year the state built Kruunun Station ("Crown Station") on the northern shore of River Ivalojoki to make it easier for the officials to monitor the area. Gold was also looked for in the bedrock, and mining was active in the area during the first two decades of the 1900s. However, the great plans of those decades did not succeed, and their remains are still there for visitors to see, as memorials of the entrepreneurial spirit and the dreams of people.
The oldest and most original place names in the area are the names of the great rivers, lakes and fells. It is rarely possible to find out the original meaning of these names, because their current form has been influenced by many languages and cultures. The original name, which may have been in Inari Sámi or North Sámi, has often been used in parallel with a new Finnish name, or names have been adapted so that they would be easier to pronounce by the Finnish speaking people. The gold diggers have named their working areas and surroundings after people, events or characteristics of the place. The North Sámi people, who move to the region, named points of reference in the landscape with names which have something to do with reindeer. Nowadays, the names of places sometimes still vary depending on the map-maker.
- Kultala Gold Village of River Ivalojoki
- Kultala (Gold Village) along Moberginoja Brook
- Kultala (Gold Village) along Pahaoja Brook
- Kultala (Gold Village) of Ritakoski
Kultala Gold Village of River Ivalojoki
The State built the Kultala Gold Mining Village, also known as the "Crown Station", on the banks of the River Ivalojoki in 1870 in order to control gold digging and the gold trade. In the restored village you can sense what the life, work and dreams of gold diggers were like over one hundred years ago.
The gold area of River Ivalojoki was officially found by an expedition sent by the senate in September 1868. The real gold rush was caused by 2 kg of gold, which was panned in a couple of weeks in the late summer in 1869 by two men, Jakob Ervast from Oulu and Nils Lepistö from Raahe, who had learned gold digging in California. Soon there were hundreds of men along River Ivalojoki trying their luck, and within five years about 40 cottages were built of logs and turf on the riverbanks.
As early as in 1870, the state built a base, "the Crown Station" along River Ivalojoki for controlling and administering gold digging. At the station, the permits of gold diggers were inspected, the gold was weighed and tax was imposed on it. The busiest years were in 1870-1900, when 38 men at most lived on the station.
Altogether, 335 people worked in the summer 1870 gold panning on River Ivalojoki. In addition to them, there were officials, owners of the claims, gold diggers and drifters, which makes 500 - 600 people staying in the gold area. When local register of population had 659 people at that time, Kultala Village may have been, except towns, the biggest population centre in the northern Finland.
In Kultala Village, there was also an aurora borealis research station in 1882 - 1884. In 1882, the The Finnish Academy of Science started a polar region research programme, and research on the northern lights, aurora borealis, was done during two winters under professor Karl Selim Lemström. An insulated bobbin was built on the top of Pietarlauttanen Fell, and in at least one night, a ray of light was seen rising from it to the sky. The studies continued in the next winter, but no more new observations were made.
In the 1900s, Kultala was used less than before, and by the 1920s the buildings were in a bad condition. Suomen Kuvalehti magazine, which wrote about Kultala, paid for a new shingle roof for the main building in 1931, but otherwise the buildings were not maintained. Lapin Kultala Foundation took the initiative to renovate the buildings under the instruction of the National Board of Antiquities in 1972 and 1982. The worker's quarters, the bakery and the storage building were in such a bad condition that they had to be renovated according to old photographs and drawings. The buildings were renovated for second time in 2000.
The Kultala Gold Village on the River Ivalojoki is among the nationally valuable cultural heritage areas.
About 100 metres from the main building, there used to be a simple pub with two barrooms. After the gold rush, the pub was no longer in use, and fell into ruin. The last logs from its walls were burnt in campfires by gold diggers and hikers.
In 1970, Metsähallitus built a hut with two rooms near the old worker's quarters. The hut was destroyed in a fire in 1995. A new hut was built in 1996, east of the main building. One of its two rooms serves as an open wilderness hut and the other one as a rental hut.
The trail to Kultala on the Ivalojoki starts from the end of the forest road near the Pahaoja hut. When going to Pahaoja, drive for about 15 km from Highway 4 (Laanila) towards Kuttura and turn right into Sotajoentie Road by the corner of the kiosk. Drive for about 8 km along Sotajoentie Road and turn left to Pahaoja.
Once there, it is a roughly one-kilometre walk from the Pahaoja parking area to the Pahaoja hut. You may cross the River Sotajoki along the new bridge. From Pahaoja, there is a 12-km walk to the gold mining village of Kultala.
History of buildings
In 1870, i.e., soon after the gold deposit was discovered, the State built a base on the bank of Saariporttikoski on the River Ivalojoki to control and administer gold digging. At the station, the gold diggers' permits were inspected, the gold was weighed and tax was imposed on it.
The main building of the Kultala Crown Station was built at a brisk pace. The construction work began in March 1870 and they were able to move in at the beginning of June. The workers' quarters were built on the other side of the Kultala grounds in order to accommodate State officials. There were two rooms in this building, which was heated by fireplaces.
There is still a stone-walled building partly dug into ground on the western side of the main building. This building was apparently used both as an ice cellar and a bakery. There is also a storage building on the edge of the grounds.
There used to be a simple bar on the bank of River Ivalojoki at a distance of about 100 metres from the main building. There were two rooms in the bar. After the gold rush, the bar was no longer used and fell into ruin. The last logs from its walls have probably been burned in the campfires of hikers and gold diggers.
From the grounds of Kultala, a path runs down to the sauna located on the riverbank. The smoke sauna has remained in rather good condition although the sauna has been at risk of burning down on many occasions. Today the sauna is a museum building and is no longer in use.
Restoring the Buildings
By the 1920s, the Kultala buildings were in poor condition. The Suomen Kuvalehti magazine, which was worried about the deterioration of this cultural site, paid for a new shingle roof for the main building in 1931. Otherwise the buildings were not maintained.
The Lapin Kultala Foundation took the initiative to renovate the Kultala buildings under the supervision of the National Board of Antiquities in 1972 and 1982. The workers' quarters, the bakery and the storage building were in bad condition and were therefore restored with the help of old photographs and drawings. The buildings were repaired for the second time in 2000. Metsähallitus took the initiative to protect the entire group of Kultala buildings which led to them being protected by a decree from the Ministry of the Environment in 1994.
In 1970 Metsähallitus built a two-room hut below the workers' quarters for the use of hikers. The hut burned down in 1995. The new hut was completed in 1996 on the eastern side of the main building. One of its two rooms serves as an open wilderness hut and the other as a reservable wilderness hut.
Kultala (Gold Village) along Moberginoja Brook
Moberginoja is a little brach of River Sotajoki. In its surroundings, active gold digging has been going for more than 120 years. Originally, Kultala along Moberginoja Brook was an exploration base built by the mining company Prospektor Ab in the beginning of 1900s. Later, there have been many diggers and mining companies. Nowadays, the only mining patent around Ivalojoki is in this area.
Moberginoja Hut was in a very bad condition in the beginning of 1970s. In 1975 - 1976 and 1982, Lapin Kultala Foundation took the initiative to renovate the buildings. Nowadays the buildings are managed by Metsähallitus.
Part of the old, large main building was renovated in the end of 1970 to serve as an open wilderness hut. The remains of the other side of the hut can still be seen next to the building. The better building was renovated in 1975 - 1976, but it was destroyed in fire in 1993. A new hut, which was built in 1999, is similar to the old one. The old, large smoke sauna on the grounds of the hut has room for about twenty bathers. Sauna and the other buildings are locked and serves area as a museum sights.
Kultala (Gold Village) along Pahaoja Brook
Hannu Postila from Sodankylä dug gold along River Sotajoki at Pahaoja Brook already in the 1880s. Gold digging in the area became more efficient when Lapin Kulta Oy built a base there in 1925. The first attempts in automatic gold digging along Pahaoja Brook were in the 1920s. Railways, bucket conveyors and steam power machines were transported there. However, this was not very successful. Not much gold was found, and rocks made the mechanical digging difficult.
In addition to the buildings, there is an old steam engine as a memorial of the old days. It was never used, because Lapin Kulta Oy went bankrupt in 1927. The name of the company did not disappear, however. A Finnish brewery, Tornion Olut Oy, bought the right to use the name in 1969. Nowadays Lapin Kulta is an internationally recognised brand of beer.
The Buildings of Pahaoja
The current main building is made up of two parts. The side which is closer to the river was floated from a kilometre away, from the mouth of Vuijemihaara brach. The other side of the building, on the left if looking from the porch, which has an open fireplace, probably originates from the beginning of the 1900s. Outside, on the corner of the building, there is a short piece of rail, which was used as a bell for calling the workers for meal breaks during the time of Lapin Kulta Oy.
The huts of Pahaoja fell into ruin in the 1950s and 1960s, when Lemmenjoki became the most important gold digging area. By an initiative from the Lapin Kultala Foundation, the National Board of Antiquities organised renovation of the buildings in the 1970s, and built a shelter for the steam engine and a suspension bridge across River Sotajoki. A 12-km-long trail was also marked from between Patatunturit Fells to Kultala Village of River Ivalojoki.
Nowadays the buildings of Pahaoja are managed by Metsähallitus. One room of the main building served till 2019 as a rental hut and the other room as an open wilderness hut, nowadays its a museum sight.
Kultala (Gold Village) of Ritakoski
In the old days, the gold diggers stayed at Ritakoski or stopped there on their way to Kultala from Kyrö Village (Ivalo was formerly called that). Ritakoski was also the dream destination of Heikki Kivekäs, one of the most famous gold diggers. He settled permanently at Ritakoski around 1910. He built a house, a horse stable and a cowshed, and cleared land for agriculture. In addition, he set up a saw mill and a planing mill. After all, gold digging was not successful there, and Kivekäs ended up in prison for forging a spirit prescription. He died in prison.
The main building of Ritakoski has been renovated for hikers to use. Moppe's Hut (Mopen tupa) serves as Metsähallitus maintenance base. Moppe was a daughter of Italian - Swedish circus family, who ended up in Lapland on her adventures, and stayed there for the rest of her life.
- Mäkipuro, Viljo 1975: Kulta - Lappia ja kullankaivajia. Porvoo. WSOY. 303 s.
- Stigzelius, Herman 1987: Kultakuume. Lapin kullan historiaa 2. Helsinki. Suomen Matkailuliitto. 256 s.