This summer I bought myself a stand up paddling (sup) board. Even I say it myself, I think this has been one of the best decisions I have ever made. Being able to paddle at lakes and rivers gives a totally new experience into the beautiful Finnish nature. Thanks to the inflatable sup boards it’s easy to take the board with you when traveling.
Last weekend we were staying at the lake house and decided to paddle through a river called Tainionvirta. This was something we had been wanting to do for a long time, but there are unfortunately very limited opportunities to rent sup boards (some kayak rental is available). Now with our own sup boards this was easy to arrange. Tainionvirta starts from lake Jääsjärvi in Hartola and it flows through some lakes and then ends in lake Päijänne. We had ambitious plan to paddle the whole way from lake Jääsjärvi all the way to Päijänne, which is approximately 40-45km long route.
Lake Jääsjärvi has some beautiful scenery, which is like text book classic of how the nature in Finland looks like during summer. Clouds reflecting from the blue lake, water lilies floating here and there. The river starts from Jääsjärvi, nearby a public beach called Aurinkoranta (“sun beach”) in municipality of Hartola (located between cities Jyväskylä and Lahti). It begins with a rapid called Ekonkoski, which is very easy to paddle through as it’s wide and deep enough even during the summer months. The only thing you need to watch out for are the fishermen who are fly-fishing trouts from the rapid. You will see trouts jumping from the water – maybe some of them will try to hitchhike with you!
If you don’t want to paddle through the first rapid, you can also start your paddling nearby the Hartola golf course. There’s a public place for rug washing (yes, you read it correctly – it’s very traditional summer activity to come and hand wash your rugs outside.. the scent of pine soft soap belongs to the childhood memories of many Finns) where you can easily decent into the water from a pier.
The first part of the route goes through inhabited area. You will pass a beautiful hanging bridge (mind your head!) nearby the museum of Itä-Häme (East-Tavastia) and Maila Talvio salon (art gallery). Paddling via the river gives you a sneak peak into the homes and summer houses of Finns, which are nicely hidden from the roads but open up towards the river. Beautiful places! The people will likely smile and wave when you pass them by. It takes about 20-30 minutes to paddle from the beginning of the river until the Finnish main road 4 (Valtatie 4), it’s less than 4km. There’s a gas station and cafeteria, if you want to stop for restrooms or to get something to eat. Approximately 800m from the main road is the next rapid called Vuoteenkoski. Follow the right side of the rapid and mind the stones, the water was quite shallow as it hasn’t been raining a lot lately. You will pass by camping area Koskenniemi. If you want to experience the Finnish summer cottage life or need a camping site where to park your camper, this is a great place to stay overnight (and why not start your paddling straight from the pier of your rental cottage).
Within couple of kilometers from the camping area we faced the only challenging part of the paddle, rapid called Vanhanmyllynkoski. It’s a popular place for fly-fishing salmon, trouts and whitefish. There the rapid current was quite strong but water was very shallow, and a tree had fallen down into the river, blocking the best paddling route. My board got stuck into the stones by its fin and the current took my partner’s board straight into the fallen tree. Luckily, neither us nor the sup boards suffered any damage (except for maybe bruised egos as the fly-fishers were watching our endeavors…). Since the water was so shallow, we could simply step off the board and carry the board to a better place and continue paddling. It’s actually possible to bypass that rapid by carrying your board or kayak if you so wish, but we decided to take a risk.. After the rapid the views were amazing, as we passed by some forests, swamps and fields.
There were couple of places where we had to bypass some dam and carry the boards on the other side. First one was Hotilankoski, which has a beautiful old water mill.
Next one was Kirveskoski dam, where we had to carry to boards for approximately 150m by a field.
The remaining part didn’t have any rapids so it was very peaceful to paddle. Even though we were paddling along the flow, the river was for most of the part so calm that you really have to paddle all the way. That’s why the rapids were actually nice change as you could simply ride the flow.
Finally, we reached the first lake: Joutsjärvi. By this time we had already eaten our snacks and drank all water (consumption based on sports tracker was 1500kcal!). So in the end, we finished the paddling to Tenninranta beach, on the other side of the lake, from which we arranged a pick-up back to the lake house. In total our route was approximately 15km and it took us 4h plus the snack breaks. You could paddle it much faster, but we were enjoying the sunny day, paddling slowly and taking a photos along the way with our mobile phones.
This was a very nice experience and I’m sure next time we’ll be better equipped with water and snacks and continue the route all the way to lake Päijänne. Perhaps next time we’ll pack a tent with us, so we can stay overnight by the river. If you got interested of this route, you can download and print the river guide (both in Finnish and English) or visit the Outdoors Finland pages where I also checked some guidance before the paddling trip.