The image of Karelia associates first of all with the territory of blue lakes. Indeed, there is a lot of lakes - over 61 thousand. By their quantity falling to 1 thousand sq.km. of the area Karelia confidently wins the first place not only in Russia, but also among the regions of the world.
Karelian lakes are very different in size varying from small "lampi" lakes, closed and anonymous, up to the largest in Europe Ladoga and Onega Lakes. The lakes, which area is up to 1 sq.km. prevail, but there are lots of larger lakes, which area is up to 10 or more sq.km., and 20 of the lakes exceed 100 sq.km. The area covered with lakes in Karelia makes 11.4% of its entire territory, which is distinctly more than in the neighbouring state Finland, and almost twice as much than in Murmansk region.
Many lakes take origins from the tectonic motions of the earth's crust, but the majority appeared due to the plowing and to heat-sink influence of the glaciers. The first are deeper, they usually are of extended form, have high rocky and quite often steep coasts and there are not enough islands. The configuration of the lakes of the glacial origin is much more various - they are distinguished with plenty of islands, gulfs, passages and rather small depth. However, very frequently the lakes have the mixed origin and it brings additional colour in their shape.
The deepest Karelian lake is Ladoga: its maximal depth makes 260 m. The Onega Lake is appreciably more fine - 126 m., as well as such large lakes, as Syamozero - 97 m., and Topozero - 56 m. And these giant lakes are accompanied by the tiny, in comparison with them, typically tectonic lake Paanajarvi extended like a narrow tape (1.5 kms. in width and 24 kms. in length) among the hills of northwest Karelia. Its depth is 131 m. It is a mini Baikal lake in Karelia.
The depth of many lakes is within the limits of 20-50 m. However, there are also rather large lakes as Ondozero in the middle Karelia, which depth does not exceed 10 m.
The banks of the Karelian lakes are very picturesque. More often they are covered with boulders, quite often they are rocky, and those rocks are or high and steep, or flat, ironed by glacier, bearing the characteristic name "the mutton foreheads". Sometimes the coastal shapes are interspersed by the golden strips of sandy beaches or dark-brown turbaries. There are very little open coasts, usually the lakes are framed with the multiflorous wood marges, rich berry and mushroom grounds.
The lager lakes are connected by channels, small and big rivers. There are lots of them in Karelia - about 27 thousand, at their common extent is 83 thousand kms. Thus, it is obviouis that the Karelian rivers mainly short. The length of the majority of them does not exceed 10 kms., and the largest are Kem, Vyg, Suna, Vodla, Kovda, Shuya stretch for 260 - 360 kms.
The characteristic feature of the Karelian rivers is the often alternation of river and lake sites. The share of lakes in the general extent of the rivers can change in very wide limits - from 0 up to 90%, but more often from 6 up to 50%. As a matter of fact, they are not the rivers in the standard understanding, but the lake-river systems typical for Karelia and absolutely not endemic for the other regions of Russia.
The rather small length of the rivers of Karelia in combination with the significant difference of heights of sources and estuaries causes their big inclination. On the average it makes about 1 m. per 1 km., and on the rapids - up to 3-5 m. per 1 km. At that, almost all falling of water level is accomplished on numerous natural obstacles - thresholds, rifts, cavities, and falls between which there are reach sites or lakes.
A plenty and variety of obstacles in channels of the rivers in a combination with the large number of the last, a various degree of water content and complexity in passage make the Karelian rivers the dream of water tourists. Here it is not difficult to choose the route of any category of complexity. The rivers Shuya, Suna, Vodla, Chirka-Kem, Onda, Pongoma, Kuzema, Vidlitsa and many others gain the All-Russian popularity among the canoeists.
Some of the obstacles in the rivers are not passable even when the water is high. It is necessary to pass them by coast, therefore the preliminary acquaintance with the route or consultation of local residents is always required.
The special interest in tourists is caused with the Karelian falls. They are very various and rather numerous, too, but only Kivach berhymed by G.R.Derzhavin: - "The diamond mountain is strewed..." has received its wide popularity. Its height is 10.7 m. Meanwhile, there are falls in Karelia 1.5 to 2 times higher. To them belong Kivakka (12 m.) on the river Olanga, Kumi (13,6 m.) - on Voinitsa, Bolshoi Padun (18 m.) - on Vincha, Belye Mosty (19 m.) - on Kulismajoki. There are many falls though less in height than Kivach, but they are no less fine. One could admire them for hours.
The "hydrographic picture" of Karelia is supplementsed by the severe White sea - the unique internal sea of Russia. It has its own appeal, fauna, since even whales are found there, the unique islands, and the rich history. Here the world famous Solovki are located, but the Kuzovetsky archipelago with its mysterious labyrinths and numerous seids on the tops of island mountains still waits for its glory.
The island of Kizhi on Onega, and Valaam on Ladoga are well-known all over the world. The special charm is made with the northern coasts of these lakes skeres of Kizhi and Ladoga. This is the interlacing of mighty rocks, the hundreds of islands, twisting passages and gulfs.
All this attracts the tourists...
Many tend to pass the lakes and even the sea on fragile boats and even on canoes. Thus, they risk fatally as the storms here are quite often and would spring up unexpectedly...