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River Guide • Karelia and Kola
Rivers by Region

There's no detailed description of the rivers of this region available yet. If you need further information please feel free to contact us directly.

Karelia map
Karelia map

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.

Rivers (Falls)

Southern Karelia, around the northern shores of Ladoga Lake and just few hours drive from St.Petersburg, offers several rivers runnable during spring flood, typically early May. This region is not well scouted, mainly because of very short paddling timeframe, so more rivers and falls obviously exist.

Located near town of Sortavala, this river has several medium difficulty drops and falls, most are accessible by car.

This river has got more difficult and dangerous falls, unfortunately most of them were converted to dams to boost local watermills. Many still runnable and all have easy road access from Sortavala.

There are two local hydropower dams build at natural waterfalls near Salmi, at the north-east shore of Ladoga. Both are some 10-15 m height, and currently no one reported them run (consider some concrete blocks with nice steel rods down there).

Central and Northern Karelia has more flexible paddling schedule, most falls are runnable through the summer, but still better at high water in May and June.

Suna, Kivach Fall
A famous tourist attraction place, mainly because its proximity to the highway, just 50 km north of Petrozavodsk, administrative center of Karelia. Being only some 6m high, it is rather straightforward by modern standards.

Suna, Girvas Fall
A huge multi-drop slide, some 25-30m high in total, in an artificial channel used to shed excess water around a hydropower station. Located 80 km north of Petrozavodsk, it rarely has water flowing, and so far nobody ever attempted this probably class 5+ (6?) drop.

Voinitsa, Kumi Fall
Further north, near Karelian village of Kalevala, the Voinitsa River has a nice two-step drop-slide fall (around 15-17m in 50m stretch). It has been kayaked few times, but danger is not to be underestimated.

Vincha, Padun Fall
Continuing north, near village of Loukhi, the Vincha River offers 10m high chute, powerful and rather dangerous. It has been kayaked only twice, the second attempt has ended with injury (50% success rate).

Olanga, Kivakkakoski Fall
Rather a very steep rapid than a fall, this place is located west of Vincha, in the Paanayarvi national park and is one of attractions for park's visitors. Unfortunately the road disappears before reaching the fall, so 5 km upstream paddling to get back to the car will be a nice bonus after you have run it.

Almost at the edge of Kola, near town of Alakurtti, Kutsayoki is a special river. Within just 2 km stretch, it has so many rapids that would be enough for a dozen Karelian rivers. Especially, huge 18m technical drop called "Mother F...r" (faithful name though) that was first run only in 2003.

Kola Peninsula is better visited few weeks later than Karelia, because even early June it may be quite cold. Much less explored than Karelia (especially east of it), it probably has many unknown waterfalls to enjoy.

There are many easy, probably playable rapids on this quite steep by local standards river. Completing with easy 5m fall, it's all just one hour drive from Kandalaksha, an important port town on the White Sea.

Titovka and Youringa
Incredible waterfall paradise, 100 km west of Murmansk, Titovka River together with its tributary, Youringa, well worth a visit. There are 6 substantial waterfalls in one place, ranging from moderate class 4- up to 5+ (6?) double-drop called "Slav Farewell" (nice name, isn't?), run only once so far.

Further west to the Norway border, there is a nice, yet moderately difficult double-drop fall on Shuoni River, not so far from town of Nickel (really, there are nickel mines around).

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