Natural Features of Inari Hiking Area

Photo: Kirsi Ukkonen

The natural beauty of Inari Hiking Area is captivating. The area is dominated by Lake Inarijärvi, the clearest and cleanest of Finland’s large lakes.

Taking care of nature

Inari – A sea-like wilderness lake at the top of Europe

Ukonsaari. Photo: Pasi Nivasalo

Lake Inarijärvi is, at some places, as deep as 100 metres, and it is one of the largest lakes in Finland. In addition to the large open water areas, there are as many as 3318 islands. The lake was formed 70 million years ago, by the earth's crust sinking. The shores of Lake Inarijärvi are steep and rocky but at some places there are also sheltered bays and sandy beaches. The many long and narrow straits are also fractures in the earth's crust.

The archipelago. Photo: Hannu Vallas

Lake Inarijärvi is barren, and does not support abundance of species, but many salmonids live in it. The waters of Lake Inarijärvi flow into the Arctic Sea through Paatsjoki River, and the natural state of the lake is affected by regulation of the water level for electricity production. Russia and Norway started regulating the water level in 1948. The fluctuation range is two metres at the most. This fluctuation is harmful to the spawning of fish and the nesting of waterbirds.

The waters of Lake Inarijärvi are naturally rich fishing areas

Ten fish species live naturally in Lake Inarijärvi: the Whitefish (Goregonus lavaretus), the Trout (Salmo trutta), the Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus), the Grayling (Thymallus thymallus), the Perch (Perca fluviatilis), the Pike (Esox lucius), the Burbot (Lota lota), the Three-spined stickleback (Gasterosteus aculeatus), Nine-spined stickleback (Pungitus pungitus), and the Minnow (Phoxinus phoxinus). There are also planted fish species living in the lake: the Lake trout (Salvelinus namaycush), the Vendace (Coregonus albula), and the Lake salmon (Salmo salar). The nesting bird species of the lake are typical for a barren lake. Species of the Arctic Sea, such as the Great Cormorant (Phalacrocorax carbo) can also be seen.Especially during the summer, LakeInarijärvi is a good destination, because on the windy islands, there are lessmosquitoes and black flies than on the mainland.

The pine forests of Inarijärvi area provide a rugged, rocky habitat. The Western Capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), the Willow Grouse (Lagopus lagopus), the Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator), or the Merlin (Falco columbarius) can be seen in the forests. The Teal (Anas crecca), the Black-throated Diver (Gavia arctica), the Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), and the Red-breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) nest on the lake.

The grayling is one of the most desirable catches. Photo: Petteri Polojärvi

The Whitefish. Photo: Matti Mela
Lake Ukonjärvi. Photo: Kimmo Kuure

Juutua - the river of the Sámi people

Juutuanjoki River, Otsamotunturi Fell, and the forests and the small lakes of Juutuanvaara Hill characterise the Juutua area. Many hiking trails to the forests and lakes of Juutuanvaara Hill start in the municipal centre of Inari, or along the Inari - Kittilä road. Parts of the forests are in commercial use but, in other parts, the landscape is dominated by old-growth forests and clear lakes.

Juutuanjoki River is the river of the Inari Sámi people. It collects the waters of a large fell area. The rivers Menesjoki, Lemmenjoki, Vaskojoki and Kaamasjoki flow into Juutuanjoki River, which then runs into Lake Inarijärvi and from there to the Arctic Sea via Paatsjoki River. Along Juutuanjoki River, the rapids Ritakoski and Haapakoski are famous among fly fishing enthusiasts. Jäniskoski Rapids is known for the fact that nobody has been able to shoot these rapids without capsizing. On the nature trail along the river, visitors get to hear stories about this impressive river and about the famous trout of Juutua.

Otsamotunturi Fell (418 m) rises from the bank of Juutuanjoki River, and dominates the landscape, also looking from the Lake Inarijärvi direction. In the old days, Otsamotunturi Fell was a sacred place, and nowadays it is the best scenic lookout to all directions in Inari area. Up there, you can admire the beauty of the surrounding lakes and the rapids of Juutuanjoki River. On top of Otsamotunturi Fell, there is an old cottage of a fire guard. It has been renovated to serve as a day trip hut. Otsamotunturi Fell is definitely one of the most impressive destinations for a day trip in Inari area.

Juutuanjoki River, in the background Otsamotunturi Fell. Photo: Martti Rikkonen

Tuulispää Fell is another destination with great scenery over the large open waters of Lake Inarijärvi. It has been a sacred place to the Inari Sámi people before Christianity. The name means "the wind", and the master of winds was worshipped there. Behind Tuulispää Fell, there is Lake Tuulijärvi, which is a great place to catch the Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus). From Lake Tuulijärvi, it is possible to continue hiking towards Hammastunturi Fell.

The White-throated Dipper. Photo: Markus Varesvuo

In the winter, the White-throated Dipper (Cinclus cinclus) lives in the unfrozen places of Juutuanjoki River, and in the summer, the riverbanks are lush in places, providing nesting sites for different bird species, the number of which is greater there than generally in Inari area. In addition to the bird species already mentioned, you can see the European Wigeon (Anas penelope), the Smew (Mergus albellus), the Rough-legged Buzzard (Buteo lagopus) and the Osprey (Pandion haliaetus). On the leafy riverbanks, also the Moose (Alces alces) can be seen.

Siberian tit. Photo: Jorma Lehti

Lake Myössäjärvi - the landscape of ancient pine trees

Photo: Tuija Kangasniemi

The oldes pines (Pinus sylvestris) in Fennoscandia grow around Lake Myössäjärvi, located between the villages of Ivalo and Inari. Lake Myössäjärvi is known for its rugged rocky landscape, and for Karhunpesäkivi, "the bear's nest rock". Karhunpesäkivi is a weathered hollow rock, which has attracted tourists for a long time. The lakes in Myössäjärvi area are popular with fishermen.

Grove forests are rare in the north

Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica). Photo: Saara Tynys.

In the wilderness-like surroundings of Lake Inarijärvi, the soil is low in nutrients, and the climate is harsh, which affects the vegetation. The pine and birch forests on the lake shores are swept by the wind, and in the field layer grow twigs which can tolerate dryness, such as the Marsh tea (Ledum palustre), the Crowberry (Empetrum nigrum), Lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea), and the Bog Bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum).

Generally, the rocky pine forests do not make a good habitat for plants. However, a hiker may be surprised finding some unusually luxuriant places. For example, on the banks of Juutuanjoki River it is possible to find the Erect Primrose (Primula stricta), the Marsh Lousewort (Pedicularis palustris) and the Moor-King (Pedicularis sceptrum-carolinum). Especially herb-rich forests, dominated by Aspens (Populus tremula), are lush places compared to their surroundings. For example, the Garden Angelica (Angelica archangelica), the Wood Millet (Milium effusum), the Arctic Blackberry (Rubus arcticus) and the One-sided Wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) grow there, as well as, Melancholy Thistle (Cirsium heterophyllum).

Yellow oxytropis at the top of Otsamo

The top of Otsamotunturi Fell is above the limit of tree growth. First the pine forests turn into alpine birch forest, and then into open fell field. A special rare plant growing on Otsamotunturi Fell is the Yellow oxytropis (Oxytropis campestris). Other fell plants can also be found on the top of the fell, such as the Alpine Azalea (Loiseleuria procumbens), the Lapland Diapensia (Diapensia lapponica), the Blue Heath (Phyllodoce caerulea), the Dwarf Willow (Salix herbacea) and the Alpine bearberry (Arctostaphylos alpina).

Photo: Kirsi Ukkonen