The Ivalon Matti Canoe Route
River Ivalojoki offers a wide variety of experiences for canoeists. The river is divided into five different parts, as to their natural features, history, ownership, and accessibility.
The river headwaters deep in the Lemmenjoki National Park are suitable for canoeing in early summer when the water level is high. In practice, this option is difficult to implement, as there is a 12-km walking distance from the road to Lake Korsajärvi, where the river begins.
The section Ivalon Matti ‒ Kuttura, which is presented here, is located in between two roads and is thus accessible. This river section is wildernesslike. It is suitable for people who wish to canoe on their own, without seeing many other people. Special canoeing skills are not required.
The name Ivalon Matti comes from a Finnish settler Matti Eira. He established his farm on the Ivalovaara peninsula in the mid-19th century. A horse-riding route, which was cleared later from Kittilä (via the village of Pokankylä) to the centre of Inari, ran via the farm. The field cleared by Matti Eira is no more visible to the river, even though it is located very close to the river. The long stone fence around the field is exceptional in Inari. Agriculture in these rugged natural conditions (a water shed region) was not fruitful and the Eira family had to give it up.
After the houses in the village of Ivalon Matti, there are no more residential sites along the route. The route is 42 km long and requires, at least, one overnight stay in the wilderness. It is noteworthy that the distance between the starting and ending points by road is 197 km. Consequently, allow enough time for setting off for the route and returning from the route.
The other sections are also suitable for canoeing. The section of River Ivalojoki from Kuttura to Lappispola is the most famous. This is because of the mighty canyon landscape, the gold prospecting history of the area, and the current gold prospecting activities. The film Lapin kullan kimallus by Åke Lindman was shot in this area. Because of its harsh rapids, this section is also demanding for experienced canoeists. A rubber raft is a safer alternative than a canoe.
The fourth section of River Ivalojoki, Lappispola‒Ivalo, is completely different from the other sections. After the three rapids, the wide river flows tranquilly through forests and settlements. For canoeists, this river section may be too calm and peaceful. Please also note that almost all of the land and water areas are privately owned.
The fifth section of River Ivalojoki, Ivalo ‒ Lake Inarijärvi, is also slow. Compared with the upstream area, this section is lush and low-lying with fields, meadows, and shoreside birch forests. And, of course, settlements. Here you will find incredibly gorgeous, wide sandy beaches. The section is privately owned.
Instructions and Service of the Ivalon Matti Canoe Route
Equipments and Safety
- It is advisable to take extra food (for one day) with you in case you will have to stay an extra night in the wilderness. Tips for suitable food.
- Please note that you will not be able to buy any gear along the route.
- Keep your mobile and matches in a waterproof box in your pocket. If you end up in the water, you may lose all other things except for those in your pocket.
- Do not set off on a trip without a map and a compass.
- When canoeing, always wear a floating vest and a helmet, and fix a sheath knife to your belt.
- The water in the river is cold in early summer and in autumn, so take care not to end up in the water. Even good swimming skills do not guard against hypothermia.
- Make sure that there is an axe, some rope, fixing tools, and a spare paddle in your canoe/kayak.
- Take enough warm and windproof clothing with you, including warm headgear and gloves. Rubber mittens keep the inner gloves dry. Pack your clothes in a waterproof package.
- Take mosquito repellent and a first-aid kit with you.
- Inform your friends of your route plan.
- Information on canoe safety and gear: Guidelines for canoe safety and gear (melontajasoutuliitto.fi, in Finnish) and Melontaopas (a canoe guide in Finnish on melonta.wasalab.com). Also take a look on the Hiking in Finland webpages.
- The ice of the river melts in early May. The melting of the ice is followed by a flood period. The water level is highest and the flow is strong at the turn of May and June. Thereafter, during June, the water level will decrease to a level where it will remain for the rest of the summer.
- The best canoeing season is from 15 June to 20 August. In early June, there is enough water in the river but the weather may be chilly.
- In autumn, you can go canoeing until October, but in practice, the deadline is mid-September. Thereafter, the water becomes cold quickly.
- Mosquitoes are at their most prevalent from 25 June to 15 July. If you camp on the terrain, avoid still spots, mires and shrubs.
- July‒August. Even in the peak season, there are only a few canoeists on the route. In addition, there may be local fishermen on the river.
Level of difficulty
The Ivalon Matti Canoe Route is best suited for canoeing. The route is not technically particularly demanding, which makes it suitable for beginners as well. However, please note that the river conditions, the water level (ymparisto.fi, in Finnish) may vary a great deal during summer.
There are no lakes in River Ivalojoki levelling the fluctuation of the water level and therefore, rain or a lack of rain continuously changes the water level. In early summer, the water level is high enough, but during the dry spells of late summer, the stretches of strongly flowing waters may have so little water that it may be difficult to find the route in between the stones. At that time, the canoe may come into contact with the riverbed. It is part of the trip. However, the stones in River Ivalojoki are roundish, without any sharp edges, and they are covered by algae, even though the water is clear and clean. Consequently, a plastic canoe will not get stuck on stones.
Description of the Ivalon Matti Canoe Route
The starting point for the route is located by the River Ivalojoki bridge. You may park your car by the shore, or on the side of the small road that runs to the west (about 100 m from the shore).
The route sections have been drawn up under the assumption that you will start your trip in the afternoon and that your trip takes two days. I.e., you will stay overnight in the wilderness on the departure day and on the following day. The trip will be completed on the third day at noon, whereupon you will have time to go and collect your car from the starting point.
Of course, you can also draw up a different kind of schedule. For example, if you want to fish during the trip, allow more time. Please note that you must check the fishing licence area (eraluvat.fi) and the other conditions with Metsähallitus. The fishing licence area does not necessarily remain the same year after year.
There are no built facilities for overnight stays along the route. They must be decided upon by the canoeists. Therefore, the following stretches are only instructive.
River Ivalojoki Bridge ‒ Hirvijärämä
The length of this first stretch is 13 km. The section is easy. The river flows peacefully. After canoeing 4 km, the river returns to the road side ‒ or, in fact, vice versa: the river has flown in the same location for thousands of years, but the road that was built in the 1960s runs close to the river at this point. The name of the village is Ivalon Matti. There are a few dwellings in the village. Having canoed further for about 1 km, the grounds of Matti Eira remain on the right-hand side.
After paddling one more kilometre, you will arrive at the first stretch of strongly flowing waters called Alaniva. In fact, Alaniva consists of four short stretches of strongly flowing waters. Here you can get the first feel of whitewater rafting. Nevertheless, whitewater rafting is too strong an expression to describe the passing of these strongly flowing stretches of water. At their worst, they are stony in the period of low water level, but there are no surges in them. After Alaniva, you will arrive at the pool of quiet waters of Paltsasuvanto. It will end at Sormusnivat, which consists of five short stretches of strongly flowing waters. Thereafter, you can start looking for a suitable spot to stay overnight. You have now passed the river's smooth section and shallow shores, and the river starts to gain more character.
Hirvijärämä ‒ Mukkakoski Rapids
The section to be canoed on the second day is 20 km. In this stretch, the river and its shores are most fascinating. Occasionally, the strongly flowing waters pack into a narrow channel that runs in between the wooded hills, and then open out, forming a pool of quiet waters. However, you will soon arrive at another stretch of strongly flowing waters. There is plenty of variation along the route, and the water always finds its route. It will never stop, always looking for the lowest point in order to run forward. The length of its trip is unimportant, as it will not get tired. The river may almost make a circle, as long as it is running downwards. Perhaps you may have these kinds of thoughts when setting off from Hirvijärämä.
The river keeps bending sharply when bypassing the wooded hills. Right after setting off from Hirvijärämä, there will be a series of strongly flowing waters named Sormuskorvat. Thereafter, you will arrive at the quiet waters of Tolppasuvanto. The ends of the pasturage cycle fence (erected by the Sallivaara reindeer herding cooperative) can be seen on both sides of the river. Thereafter, a stretch of strongly flowing waters again, and a gentle curve to the left, and you will arrive at the mouth of Iso Sormusoja. Another stretch of strongly flowing waters (longer than the previous ones). It is also called Sormuskorva. On the map, at least, but map names are not always the same as the names that are actually used for the places.
The river flows swiftly for a few kilometres after the last Sormuskorva, but there are no rapids. When bypassing Honkavaara Hill, it turns to the northwest ‒ almost away from its main direction. At the point where River Ivalojoki meets River Repojoki (at the north-western corner of Honkavaara Hill), the river makes a right-angle turn to the right, and then it turns into the Kärräkoski Rapids. Soon, the river changes its course again because of the ascending terrain. In order to bypass the steep Yrjönvaara Hill, a long stretch of strongly flowing waters hurries to the southeast, makes a sudden curve, and goes on in its main direction (i.e. to the northeast).
You will now arrive at the mouth of River Karvajoki, where the most charming and demanding section of the route starts. The land ascends steeply from the river valley in a capacity of steep rock walls and pine forests growing on slopes. The block fields of Hirvipäät glow in the south. Now the fast-flowing stretches of water turn into rapids. After the mouth of River Repojoki, you will arrive at the Järnäkoski Rapids, the Kivikoski Rapids, and the Jäkäläkoski Rapids. They are fairly easy, but the next rapids, Saarikoski, will test your canoeing skills.
After the Saarikoski Rapids, there is a rather long stretch of quiet waters before the Mukkakoski Rapids, where the canoe will easily hit the rocks. It is a good idea to stay overnight in this area (Hirvipäät). From here, it only takes a few hours to canoe to Kuttura. Mukkakoski are the last rapids along the route. Thereafter, the remaining stretch consists of a pool of quiet waters as well as shallow, fast-flowing waters with gravel bottoms.
Mukkakoski Rapids ‒ Kuttura
The long and straight Hirvisuvanto pool of quiet waters opens up right after setting off from the Mukkakoski Rapids. The pool is almost 7 km long. There are two slight bends in the pool, so you cannot see it in its entirety. The other bend at the end of the pool is special. It looks like the river ends in the forest. Of course, it does not do so, but the river shifts its location crosswisely (in a stretch of about three hundred metres) to the southwest, simultaneously falling on a lower step. On this fault step, there is a chain of small islands. From six different places between these islands, the water falls onto a lower level and continues in its previous direction, to the southeast. Apparently, this exceptional change of route is caused by a vertical fault in the bedrock.
After Hirvisuvanto, River Ivalojoki makes a sharp curve to the northeast. At this curve, the River Pikku Rullajoki and the River Kivijoki join the River Ivalojoki. Next, there is a shallow, fast-flowing stretch of water (gravel bottom), and it continues all the way to the mouth of River Taimenjoki. When the water level is low, you may have to pull your canoe over land at this point.
You will see the Kuttura bridge and the houses in the village of Kuttura soon after the mouth of River Taimenjoki. The boat ramp where the route ends is located before the bridge, on the right side of the river. The length of the stretch on the final day is 11 km.