Karelia by virtue of its geological, geomorphological, and landscape variety has many natural territories and the objects representing higher scientific, nature protection, recreation and tourist interest and, therefore, demanding special protection. At present there are 170 especially protected territories of the different status, including 2 reserves, 2 national parks, 1 natural park, 47 forest reservations, 107 nature sanctuaries, 1 botanical garden, and also a number of historical and cultural lands officially located in the republic.
1. Reserves are territories with especially rigid nature protecting mode. They are intended for realization of scientific researches, and also limited ecological tourism.
Reserve Kivach. This is the first protected territory of Karelia. It was formed in 1931 on the area 2 thousand hectares, expanded subsequently up to 10.6 thousand hectares. It is located in Kondopozhsky area, almost in the center of the southern part of the republic. Kivach is a typical wood reserve, in which natural complexes of average taiga are protected. In its rather small territory almost all forms of the Karelian relief that predetermines riches of vegetative cover are presented. 200-250-year-old pine forests generated on sandy plains, narrow sandy steep ridges, and rocky ridges prevail. There are uneven-age fir-greens occupying flat sites with loamy grounds and slopes of drift clay ridges. There are also deciduous plantings and small bogs.
In total the Kivach flora totals over 600 kinds of vascular plants. The fauna including 48 species of mammals, 202 species of birds, 3 species of reptiles, 4 species of amphibious, 20 species of fishes and thousand species of invertebrates is also various. All of them - both plants, and animals - are typical taiga kinds.
From northwest to southeast the reserve is crossed with the large river Suna numbering over 50 thresholds and falls. The most well-known among them, mentioned in XVI, is the Kivach falls. Its height is 10.7 m. The water falls in 4 ledges between powerful basalt rocks. Even now, when the part of water is allocated for the needs of Girvasskaya Hydroelectric Power Station, the falls looks very picturesquely, especially in the freshet periods. Earlier, by memoirs of travellers, it made simply stunning impression: "... All verbs of Russian representing knock and action, will not suffice," for the description of the falls. These inspired lines were devoted to it by the first Karelian governor, the well-known poet G.R.Derzhavin who has created an ode "Falls" for the long time remaining on the pages of school readers.
In immediate proximity from the falls the manor of reserve where there is a museum of nature and a small tree nursery. Alongside with some exotic trees, there are different forms of well-known Karelian birch.
Visiting of reserve and falls is included into almost all excursions "On vicinities of Petrozavodsk", which is 70 kms. from Petrozavodsk
Reserve Kostomukshsky. It was established in 1983 on the area of 47.5 thousand hectares. It is located 25 kms. to the west from Kostomuksha, adjoins the border with Finland. Its relief is featured for significant ruggedness: rocky files and drift clay ridges alternate with the downturn occupied with lake hollows, valleys of the water-currents, and boggy lowlands.
There are about 250 lakes in the reserve, among which there is the largest one called Kamennoye (10.5 thousand hectares), distinguished by cleanliness of its water and picturesqueness. There are 98 islands, set of capes, and gulfs. Depth of the lake makes up to 26 meters. On its coast there were some settlements of the Karelians who have left small stain of fields and meadows.
A short (25 kms), but very beautiful and rough river Kamennaya, carrying its waters through the system of lakes and rivers in the White sea follows from the lake and goes through the territory of the reserve. The majestic, clamped in steep rocks Tzar-rapid impresses the most.
In reservoirs live 16 species of fish, among which the kamennoozersky salmon is the most interesting forming local herd. Other valuable fish of the reserve are white-fish, whitefish and umber, numerous pikes, perch, and small fry.
Landscapes of the reserve are typical for northern taiga. Pine woods prevail (about 70%). There are much less fir groves (20%), they are dated to the slopes' bottoms and to the valleys of streams and small rivers. Small sites meet deciduous plantings. Woods are virgin and age up to 200-300 years.
From representatives of the fauna being typical taiga, the most interesting are wood northern deer, Canadian beaver and the birds included in the Red Book: golden eagle, see eagle, fish-hawk, falcon-sapsan, and also goose and hooping swan.
In total in reserve it has been noted about 350 species of vascular plants, more than 100 species of mosses and lichens, 32 species of mammal, 182 species of birds, 2 species of reptiles, and 3 species of amphibious.
For acquaintance to the nature of the reserve the tourist routes becoming known both in Russia, and abroad are laid over its territory. In summer there are campaigns on foot on the ecological track and on canoes over the lake Kamennoye and on the river Kamennoye, in winter there are ski trips in wood glades and over the ice armor of lakes. There are small houses for lodging for the night and saunas on routes.
In 1989 on the base of Kostomukshsky reserve and five adjacent protected natural territories of Finland the international reserve, which has received the name Park "Druzhba (friendship)" was formed. Its creation was a real embodiment of the known thesis "the Nature does not know borders".
In the information center of the reserve located in Kostomuksha, scientific laboratories and the museum of the northern country are equipped.
2. National and Natural Parks are meant both for protection of inviolate natural complexes, and for developing tourist activity. In Karelia the national parks "Vodlozersky", "Paanajärvi" and the natural park "Valaamsky archipelago" have been founded.
The national park "Paanajärvi" is located in northwest of Karelia in its most raised part occupying spurs of ridge Maanselkja. The park has been founded in 1992 on the area of approximately 104 thousand hectares. Landscapes of the park are extremely picturesque - mountain tops here are divided by deep gorges, numerous lakes, various bogs and rough rivers with noisy rapids and falls. Slopes of mountains and valleys of the rivers are covered with virgin almost inviolate woods, among which sharply prevail thin fir groves. Under their flat a magnificent carpet of bilberry, some other bushes and grasses expands, and branches of fur-trees are covered with manes of "bearded lichen" which is the indicator of cleanliness of the air. In mountains, at the height of 400-500 m., fir groves are replaced by the fir and birch light forest turning into birch crooked woods and tundra communities. On the coasts of rivers and lakes and on the sites with sandy grounds pine forests grow. In their cover reindeer moss, a favourite forage of northern deer, are usual.
Pearl of park is Lake Paanajärvi, stretched from the west to the east like a blue ribbon, in a frame of mountain tops, rising to water as steep rocks, or remaining in small distance. In such places the well defined terrace between the lake and mountains was formed, which in remote times has been a life arena for several tens the Finnish families settling farms around the lake. The microclimatic conditions developing in this intermountain hollow, are favorable not only for animal husbandry, but also for cultivation of some agricultural crops including barley and rye. However as a whole, the influence of economic activities of local population on the nature of the region was insignificant. Now it appears as small glades covered with meadow motley grasses and thrickets of raspberry, creating favorable visual contrast to gloomy taiga landscapes.
The lake Paanajärvi is well-known, first of all, for its small size (1.5 on 24 kms.), it has great depth of 131 m. This is the second deep lake of Karelia (after Ladoga), and, perhaps, in the considerably more extensive territory. The lake possesses very clean water and a significant variety of fauna that is explained by ancient connections with the White sea.
From the west the river of Oulanka originating in Finland flows into the lake, and from the opposite end the river Olanga flows out flowing into Pyaozero, one of the largest lakes of Karelia. Water system Oulanka-Paanajärvi-Olanga, cutting Maanselkja ridge, served as ancient trading way between Swedish Bothnia and Russian White sea regions. In those times the Russian-Swedish border approximately halved the lake Paanajärvi to what the boundary stone being now the tourist sight testifies. Natural sights of the lake and river are 4 beautiful falls, and one of them, Kivakka, is one of the largest in Karelia. The impression from this falls amplifies even more that it look effective "on the background" of the mountain bearing the same name, the third on height in the park (499 m.). By the way, the top of this mountain is one of the historical and cultural objects: the seids, the sacred stones of ancient Saams, are settled there.
The highest mountain of Karelia, Nuorunen (577 m.), is also located in the park. The ecological track, not difficult for passing, but leaving the whole scale of unforgettable impressions, leads to its top, as well as on Kivakka.
Waters of the park are rich in fish. The salmon trout is of the greatest interest, since it reaching 5-7 kg. in weight. As well as umber, white-fish, and bull-trout, it is the object of license catch.
In the park there are foot, ski, motorized sledge and water routes. There are over ten small houses constructed, capable to receive simultaneously up to 60 tourists. Places for installation of tents are equipped.
The office of the park is situated in the village of Pyaozersky. The roads lead there from the border, the regional center the settlement of Louhi and from South.
On beauty and variety of landscapes, riches and undamaged state of natural complexes the national park "Paanajärvi" can be included in the number of the best parks of Russia.
Natural park "Valaamsky archipelago" is located in the northern part of Ladoga lake in 40 kms. from Sortavala. The area of the archipelago consisting of fifty islands, is insignificant - only 3600 hectares, from which 2800 hectares fall on the main island giving the name to the archipelago and to the monastery located there. For its centuries-old history originating in XIV century, the monastery has created the outsanding landscape architectural complex on the islands that has received world popularity. In 1992 by the decree of the President of Russian Federation Valaam has been declared the national property of Russia.
The History of the monastery is eventful: it knew rises and falling, suffered shattering ruin from the Swedish attacks, sometimes discontinued its existence, but inevitably renewed again on the old place and even on a grander scale. The last tough period for the monastery was the second half of the past century. Only in 1989 the monks have returned again to Valaam and have opened the next page of the history of Valaam. The next years the monastery experienced the difficult revival, but the beginning of its new spiritual and economic rise is already visible.
It has been written much in special and popular editions, including booklets for tourists about architectural sights of Vallam; it is possible to see images of churches, chapels, other cult objects in numerous photos of known masters and amateurs, at last, it is possible to familiarize with them during the usual tourist excursion. However, the nature of Valaam deserves no less attention of tourists.
It is so unique, that in XIX Valaam has become the original school of landscape painting, in which graduates of the St.-Petersburg Academy of arts among whom there are names of I.I.Shishkin, A.V.Gine, P.P.Dzhogin, F.A.Vasiliev, A.I.Kuindzhi etc. prepared for the degree works. They have visited Valaam repeatedly and have immortalized its landscapes in many pictures stored nowadays in the well-known museums of the world.
Nature of Vallam is fine and unusual now as well. Mighty pines and a fur-trees grow here right on the rocks, which are raised by tens of meters above the water, and that is why the coast sometimes looks as an unapproachable fortress. In other places, on the contrary, the rocks leave under water very gently and are so much ironed by ice that have a look of the mutton foreheads, but quite often the simply bouldered sites or fine sandy beaches are found. On many islands the usual for the sight pines, fur-trees, and birch are unexpectedly supplemented with groves and avenues of oaks, firs, larches, cedar, and many other breeds brought once by the monks from different areas of the country. All these plantings have rather decent age - up to 100-150 years, and even more, that creates an impression of the certain botanical oasis on severe northern rocks. A picture is completed by the gardens created by the monks, especially fine in the time of blooming and fructification.
The task of the natural park is to keep the fine pictures of archipelago and with the help of specially laid routes to show tourists both cultural, historical, and natural sights of this surprising sight of Russian nature.
3. Forest Reservation and Nature Sanctuaries. These especially protected natural territories and objects are created by decisions of the governments of subjects of the Russian Federation for the term of up to 10 years and their status requires periodic confirmation. Depending on the value and features of the territory the forest reservations are subdivided on complex (landscape), botanical and wood, marsh, hunting, zoological, and hydrological ones. In complex forest reservations all components of nature are protected, in the others its separate representatives or their groups are protected. In Karelia there are 47 forest reservations and 109 nature sanctuaries occupying in total 628 thousand hectares.
The majority of forest reservations and nature sanctuaries represent considerable interest for tourists, however, only those of them that appear in zones of attraction of known tourist routes are used in the tourist purposes. The forest reservations "Soroksky", "Kuzov's Islands", "Polar circle" by the White sea, "Tolvojarvi" in Suojarvsky area, "Skeres of Kizhi" in Medvezhiegorsky area,
botanical Karelian birch reservations "Kakkorovo" and "Tsarevitchi" and some other landscape forest reservations are included in the number of the most known ones. From among the nature sanctuaries one should mention the Tri Ivana (Three Ivans), Tsaritsyn Kluch (Tsarina's spring), Solyanaya Yama (Salt hole), and also Shungsky open-pit mine of schungites in Zaonezhie, Girvassky open-pit mine of the canyon of the river Suna in Kondopozhsky area, Uksinskaya pink chine in Pitkjarantsky area, separate oustanding trees in the town plantings of Sortavala and Petrozavodsk.
The especially protected natural territories are a fine base for development of ecological tourism, which popularity grows among the tourists all over the world. It raises the value of such territories and makes their allocation economically profitable.