Karelia is a nice, relatively untouched country, located north to St.Petersburg, along the Finland border. The area is much less populated than center of Russia, but road network is still wide enough. Hills and woodlands, it's the "land of thousands lakes", linked by short, yet sometimes very steep river stretches. The explanation for this lies under few inches of soil - further down it is all granite, extremely hard rocks that water cannot grind for millions of years.
Further north, behind the Arctic Circle, Kola Peninsula is pretty much like Karelia. Hills are higher here, and sometimes look like little mountains. At the same time forests get lower and coming to the north are displaced by arctic plains ("tundra"). Population is irregular and roads are scarce especially in the east. Shore line drops north into Arctic Ocean from a 200-300 m plateau, and this is the place where many huge waterfalls exist. Unfortunately, Kola coastline used to be a base for Soviet submarine forces, and many places are still prohibited to enter.
Type of Paddling
Waterfall runs. Rivers in this region are mainly flat, crossing many small and big lakes, therefore river running would involve seayak-like journey in a creeker or playboat. Sections that worth paddling are only few hundreds, or few dozens, or even just few meters long, and it's wise to use a car to link them into a remarkable whitewater journey.
Season & Climate
May (June for Kola) till August. Climate is temperate in the south, getting gradually colder to the north, but thanks to 24-hour polar day summer is warm enough. Mosquitoes become problem late May in the south and mid-June in the north, disappearing by end of August. All the rivers are practically at sea level and are snow and rain fed. Drainage here is boosted by large lake network, so water gets down slowly, typically by end of June and further down through the summer.
Getting There & Away
The main highway, accompanied by the railway, goes all the way to Murmansk, at the north shore of Kola Peninsula. First option might be to go by train from either St.Petersburg (10-30 hrs, depending on the destination) or Moscow (20-40 hrs) and then hire a taxi or truck/minibus to the river.
Another option is to drive all the way by car (the distance from St.Petersburg to Murmansk is 1300 km and takes 15-20 hrs drive); in this case you're more flexible in your plans.
Murmansk has several flights per day to both St.Petersburg and Moscow and this may be used to go to the northern Kola if you're short on time. Besides this, there are no scheduled flights there.
Unfortunately border politics, relaxed in mid-1990, appears to be toughened again for some inexplicable and stupid reason. As of 2004, borderland permits will probably be mandatory again to enter almost half of Karelia along Finland border and those permits must be obtained in advance.