Lake Pyhä

As the other documents in this series, this one also describes in general the different kayaking and canoeing possibilities around Tampere. This article in particular deals with Pyhäjärvi. Close to the very end, there is a short excerpt on tour skating options on Pyhäjärvi ice.

Lake Pyhäjärvi is the center point of the Kokemäenjoki waterway system. From south, from Lempäälä, through the Koukkala rapid run the waters on Vanajavesi and the Hauho and Längelmävesi routes. From the north, through Tammerkoski rapids (now leashed under hydro power) run the water of the northern Ähtäri, Pihlajavesi and Keuruu routes. From Pyhäjärvi onwards the waters continue to the Baltic Sea (and the Gulf of Bothnia). The surface area of Pyhäjärvi is 121 km2. The lake is shaped like a half circle, which means you can easily get to a nice pick up place either west or east of Tampere city. The route from west to east starts at Tampere downtown and continues to Kangasala. The third bigger town on the way is Lempäälä (distance from Tampere around 50 km, and the first two being Pirkkala and Nokia). The lake divides into multiple different clearings and the narrower gaps in between. The most significant of these gaps is formed by the island of Luoto in Nokia. Its northern and southern canals are Särkänvirta, Sotkanvirta and Kaivanto. There may be some current in all of these on your way onwards. Note, if you want to stay on this route, do not go to Nokiavirta river starting from close to Nokia Eden Spa hotel. This will lead you to Emäkoski, once one of the biggest streches of white water around (before it was leashed also under hydro power). There is a quite high damn at Melo, which is not that easy to pass without some further knowledge.

The Tampere southside motorway crosses the lake at Rajasalmi bridges. Nearer to Lempäälä the Kierimo canals divide the lake into clear parts. The curved shape of the lake and the open bays of the clearings make the lake a challenging one to paddle in rough winds and weather conditions. At least on some of these clearings it can be hard to find a sheltered route. Going close to the shores will multiply the distance considerably.

The great waters of Näsijärvi on the north and Pyhäjärvi on the south are both in many respects very different from each other. Whereas Näsijärvi is more rugged, close to the city without any real uninhabited islands and shores and with the markings of modern and past activity I scarce, lake Pyhäjärvi on the other hand is much more fertile and bountiful. With its shores with dense population, summer houses and lots of markings of mans long time actions on its shored and islands, both history and the present are strongly interlinked here.

The northern part of Pyhäjärvi until the very island of Luoto, is mostly populated with almost a city like habitat. On the north shore with Tampere and Nokia and the south side with Tampere and Pirkkala. In terms of sceneries this means culture. You can see Pyynikki and Pispala morene ridge (interlinked together) in Tampere nicely to the lake with some nice houses on the slopes. Also the industrial history of Tampere is present. Especially if you visit the Ratina near Laukontori. At Nokia you can also sense the industrial heritage, altough its form and shape is most clearly shown only until you go towards the sea. From Luoto onwards towards Lempäälä the lake shores are more rural, but there is some population still. One finds summer houses on the lake shores and on islands. As a whole this means, that everymans rights for offsite camping possibilities are quite few. For this reason it is important to know the main public camping sites and grounds.

On Pyhäjärvi, in the summer time you can not find the peace of nature and mind, which many paddlers on their tours strive for. This does not mean, that Pyhäjärvi is less interesting than Näsijärvi or some of the other routes. On the contrary you can see much of value to you, when you want to. The following thoughts pop up into mind, as I have paddled there and afterwards read what some of the sites of value could be about. As a starting point for this, I take a quite stern bothanical difference in comparison between the two sides of the morene ridge at Tampere. On the rocky and rugged Näsijärvi, or to say the least, on the Pukala lake annex of Paarlahti bay, you can almost feel like you are in Inari. On the Pyhäjärvi side where you find ulmus laevis (latin name), there is a huge difference.

Ulmus laevis (in English: european white elm) was a common plant and tree in the Häme region (from Hämeenlinna to Tampere) around 6000 years ago in the Atlantic Climate Period. Very roughly speaking the enterprise of early man around Pyhäjärvi was also a time of good commerce. One can note this even from the markings of even a general map. The growing places of the european white elm were also beneficial to early men and the present canoeist or kayaker can see signs of both. It is also of worth noting and to mention that in the same climate period Finns lived closer to the sea. Pyhäjärvi had on the other side enclosed as a lake, but on the downside of Nokia rapids Kulovesi and Rautavesi were for long inlets of the Baltic sea.

The once fertile land has proved as such also in the historical continium. This is told by the castle hills of the Second Crusade to Finland by the Swedes, and the attacks to the grounds of the now called Häme Castle (Hämeenlinna). And by the stone age churches (Messukylä and Lempäälä chruches and Nokia manor ruins). The water route from Nokia to the sea was a strong link in this progress, due to the reason that the conditions downstream from Nokia were even better and more fertile. This day it seems that for example the gray heron birds have seen this. The population of gray herons rises when going downstream on the route from Nokia to the Baltic sea. These thoughts are easily tested even by light googling when planning a trip this way. You can find basic information from these themes online.

Still a few historical facts to ponder about for the Pyhäjärvi route:

In Vesilahti you will find the mansion on Laukko, the birthplace of the Kurki noble family. The story tells of a fight between the founding father of the family and a Novgorodian giant war chief by the name of Pohto in the late 13th century. Matti Kurki won the the duel on an island near the grounds of Laukko. The island was later on named after the Novgorodian chief.

Further south you can find the canal of Rikala. Already in the 18th century, by the degree of the Swedish king people tried to dig the canal there.

When it comes to tour skating, Pyhäjärvi is a very tricky lake. Its narrows form very treacherous currents, which are amplified by the water flowing through Tammerkoski. The water level fluctuates strongly (due to the adjustment done for hydro power) and also by the current flowing from Melo hydro station (adjustment power also). The currents depicted above weaken the ice crust and are sometimes “against reason” also for experienced tour skaters. This is caused by the fact that the water in the basin fluctuates and makes the bottom water of the lake to shift balance.

Hiking Travel serves customers in this area by renting canoes and kayaks in the open water season from our base in Tampere and also by organizing transportation from Tampere to the paddling location. It is cheapest for the customer, if the tour starts from Tampere and goes on to Pyhäjärvi, via Lempäälä canal to lake Vanaja and further on via Valkeakoski canal to Roine lake. It is best to end the tour in Kangasala city. When there is ice you can find tour skates from our rental shop in Kauppi. Our regular customer service includes also valuable tips and information for a person planning their tour for this route.

-Track master Pekka Tyllilä