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Koitajoki River – North Karelia

Koitajoki River – North Karelia

River Koitajoki initiative connects the versatile nature and culture values of the unique area with many-sided visitor services based on moving with muscle power, eating tasty Karelian food and resting in the local guesthouses.

Koitajoki is a border area river flowing both in Finland and Russia. The river has been, for hundreds of years, a central asset for Ilomantsi municipality (North Karelia, Finland), where the most important parts of the river are located.  Koitajoki river system connects northern, eastern, southern and western parts of the municipality. It merges to river Pielisjoki which continues down to the city of Joensuu, the capital of the province.  All of the areas of the initiative belong to North Karelia Biosphere Reserve.

Picture by Alpo Hassinen

Koitajoki area is a many-sided complex of waterways and wetlands consisting of lakes, meandering parts of river and extensive lowland mires. Its unique nature also includes rare flood meadows used in the former times for cattle grazing as well as extensive and rare mire ecosystems next to the river in the centre of Koitajoki. In the northern part of the river old growth forests depict the river landscape.  The endemic Koitajoki whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus f. pallasi) are introduced all over Finland. Several nature reserves are also located along the river system. Koitajoki flows through “Kesonsuo Nature Conservation Area” which is a bird sanctuary for both breeders and migrants. It also flows through the “Petkeljärvi National Park” that is home to old-growth forests including 150 year old shield bark covered pines have remained untouched by the forest industry.

Being a natural connector between various parts of the municipality, Koitajoki has facilitated moving around. As part of the forestry logs have been floated along the river. Remote Möhkö village used to be an important producer of lake-ore iron and employed over 1000 workers. The river was used to transport the iron ore to the ironworks and wood for processing the ore.  Ilomantsi Museum Foundation maintains Möhkö Ironworks Museum at Möhkö village and Parppeinvaara Bard Village at Parppeinvaara, at the centre of the municipality. Mekrijärvi and Huhus villages have been important to the collection of Kanteletar or Ancient Songs and Hymns of the Finnish People.

River seining of whitefish in Koitajoki river is a special, ancient form of fishing still maintained at Koitajoki River. The endemic and endangered form of whitefish and and the rare river seining practice together are considered by experts even worthy of recognition under UNESCO’s list of intangible cultural heritage.

Ilomantsi tourism association with its members (tens of small enterprises) and local associations are the key actors to develop non-destructive tourism uses of the river and other nature objects and maintaining many typical, local cultural features in cooperation with SHAPE partners and North Karelia BR.  Many of the actors belong to North Karelia BR network of sustainability partnerhips.

Picture by Sami Niemelainen

Development goals

  • Collection of background information for development (nature & culture objects, stories, business networks)
  • Defining key visitor groups and visitor expectations
  • Developing and testing (together with enterprises) new tourism products for key sections of the initiative area of The Koitajoki river
  • Increasing co-operation and visibility of the area, enterprises and tourism product