Pöyrisjärvi Wilderness Area
Pöyrisjärvi (Bievrrašjávri) is a wilderness area in Enontekiö in north-western Finnish Lapland by the lake with the same name, by the Norwegian border. It has varying nature and two traditional Sami summer villages, still inhabited part of the year. There are rivers suitable for fishing and canoeing and paths for cross-country biking. The area borders Øvre Anárjohka National Park in Norway, Pulju Wilderness Area and some other protected areas.
Sufficient experience of hiking (or a guide) is strongly recommended for most visits. The route to lake Pöyrisjärvi should be easy, though.
For some general advice, see Hiking in the Nordic countries.
Although this is a wilderness area, you may, depending on season and route, meet quite some people, both locals and visitors. It has always been an area important for fishing, hunting and reindeer husbandry for the locals.
People seem to have come to hunt reindeer near lake Pöyrisjärvi since the stone age. Hunting and fishing have been important also in later times, but hunting became less important since the wild reindeer and the beaver got extinct in the 19th century. Reindeer husbandry probably came to Finland in the 17th century. Until 1852 the herders at Pöyrisjärvi were from Kautokeino in Norway, but then the border was closed and two local herding groups were formed, with summer villages at Pöyrisjärvi and Kalkujärvi. These villages are still inhabited part of the year.
There are prehistoric trapping pits in many locations, marked on the map as pyyntikuoppia. They are much shallower than when they were used; use the map and your imagination to reconstruct the hunt.
The wilderness areas were established 1991 to protect the wilderness character of these areas, secure the Sámi culture and develop usage of the nature, including reindeer herding, fishing and hunting. There are severe restrictions on building any infrastructure, but the status has little influence on what a hiker is allowed to do. Most of the area is owned by the government and administered by Metsähallitus.
The area consists of rolling fell and forest landscape, with many fells reaching above the tree line (little above 400 meters). There are also large bogs, including palsa bogs. There are impressing sand dunes and ridges, especially north of lake Pöyrisjärvi. A treeless fell plateau starts north of the lake (north of the Norwegian border, in Finnmark, it continues as part of the vast Finnmarksvidda).
Flora and fauna
Most of the area is dominated by fell birch forest, bogs and small lakes. In the south there are also pine forests. Diverse fell vegetation is found on many fell tops and in the far north.
The area is rich in wading bird (21 species) and water fowl (17 species, including long-tailed duck, common scoter, smew and whooper swan). On the fell tops there are snow buntings, ptarmigans, Eurasian dotterels, rough-legged buzzards and (some years) snowy owls. Most birds are migratory and not seen in the winter.
Arctic fox, wolverine, lynx, wolf and brown bear all occur in the area, while least weasel, ermine and mink are common.
The wilderness area is in inland Lapland, near the tree line. This means advice for cold weather apply in full in the winter. In midwinter temperatures down to -40°C (-40°F) are not exceptional. Spring comes late and winter early. Freezing temperatures and snow are possible also in the summer, although day temperatures of 15–20°C (55–70°F) and night temperatures of 5–10°C (40–50°F) are the norm. Hard winds are more common than in the south, especially in exposed areas. The weather can change quickly.
Most people visit the area June to September, but there are no real peaks.
Knowledge of some Finnish and Sámi words helps you read your map. The translations here are what is most relevant in this context, not necessarily the usual meaning. The interpretation is not always exact.
- tunturi: fell reaching above the tree line
- oaivi: "head", often about fell with certain shape
- vaara: hill not reaching the tree line (but sometimes just várri transformed into Finnish)
- várri: hill or mountain, often quite big
- järvi, jávri: lake
- lompolo: lakelet, pond
- joki, johka: river or stream
- oja: minor stream
- palsasuo: palsa bog, i.e. bog with frost mounds
- autiotupa: (open) wilderness hut
- varaustupa: reservation hut
- kämppä, tupa, tuvat: cottage(s)
- kesätuvat: summer village
- kota: goahti, Sámi traditional dwelling
- laavu: either Sámi traditional temporary dwelling (lávvu) or lean-to shelter
- retkeilyreitti: hiking trail
- erotusaita: reindeer fences used for gathering and handling reindeer (to separate those of different owners and to mark calves)
- lautta: ferry
The wilderness area is best reached via Fell Lapland Nature Centre in Hetta (Heahttá), which has exhibitions and films introducing Fell Lapland and the Sami culture. Here you can buy maps, unless you already did, get the key to the reservation hut, buy fishing permits and get last minute advice. Hetta is the main village of Enontekiö, with quite good connections and an assortment of shops.
All common entrances to the park can easily be reached by car or taxi from Hetta, and there are coach connections to less than one day's walk from them. If you use coaches, some careful planning is needed, as only Hetta has daily connections. You are free to enter the area wherever you wish.
From the nature centre there is a trail all the way to lake Pöyrisjärvi (45 km), marked half the way, to the Sami winter village Näkkälä (Neahčil). There is an open wilderness hut halfway to Näkkälä (Näkkälän välitupa). Näkkälä can also be reached by car (taxi) or by foot (14 km) from Palojärvi (Bálojávri), which has a coach connections a few times a week in the summer (road 93 Hetta–Kautokeino, 25 km north from Hetta). It is probably possible to cross Näkkälänjoki at Näkkälän välitupa wilderness hut and enter the wilderness area already here.
You can also enter the area via Vuontisjärvi (Vuottesjávri), 18 km east of the nature centre (road 956 towards Kittilä), or Kalmakaltio (Galbmagáldu): leave the regional road at Nunnanen (Njunnás) farther east and continue by the Kalmakaltio road (16 km). There is an open wilderness hut at Kalmakaltio. You can also use the bridge (or ford?) at the end of the road (take the left road at the fork some 2.5 km before the wilderness hut). There may be a coach service from Hetta via Vuontisjärvi to Nunnanen or farther via Nunnanen.
Pöyrisjoki (Bievrrašjohka) and Käkkälöjoki (Geahkkil), the main rivers for canoeing, pass the road 956 between Hetta and Nunnanen. The canoe routes start at Pöyrisjärvi and Kalmakaltio, respectively.
Taxis can be found at Enontekiö web pages. In school days school buses can be used.
There are no entrance or hiking fees. The right to access is valid in the area and permits roaming, temporary camping and picking berries and mushrooms.
If you want a guaranteed bed at Pöyrisjärvi you have to reserve it (€11/person). The other huts are free open wilderness huts, where beds cannot be reserved.
Fishing permits can be bought from the nature centre and from some local businesses. Fishing in still waters with a rod and a line (with no reel nor artificial lure other than a jig) is free. For lure fishing or fishing in the streams you need permits, both a general fee (€22 for a year, €7 for a week) and either a lure fishing permit for all Finnish Lapland, but not streams (€31 for a year, €7 for a week), or a permit for the streams of Enontekiö. Children and elderly are exempted from some of the fees. Check current regulations. There are minimum allowed sizes for different fish species.
Also hunting permits can be bought from the nature centre. Pöyrisjärvi is divided into an eastern and a western area (the dividing line at Vuontisjärvi, some areas excluded). Permits can be bought for 1–7 days or for a hunting season. There are three kinds: "willow ptarmigan permit" (€17/day) covering also hare, red fox, legal waterfowl, small predators etcetera, "water fowl permit" (not recommended) and "small predator permit" (day permits not available). The permit allows a number of points, with different game "costing" different numbers of these points. The hunting season starts 1th August, but the legal period varies by game. You also need permits for any arms and a general hunting permit (the domestic exam includes arms handling, hunting law and game knowledge).
In summertime the main options for moving are by foot, by mountain bike or by canoe. In wintertime you move by ski, possibly by snow mobile with locals. The roads in the area are not usable with normal cars and extend only to some parts of it.
A good map, a compass and the skill to use them are needed. Not all paths are marked on the maps. There are no official marked trails, but some routes are well established, such as the Kalmakaltio – Pöyrisjärvi – Näkkälä route.
Enontekiö guide and outdoor map (1:100 000) includes information about huts and some trails. You probably also want the ordinary topographic maps: maastokartta/terrängkarta 1:50 000, i.e. some of V423 Enontekiö, V424 Näkkälä, W413 Pöyrisjärvi, V442 Peltotunturi and V441 Repokaira, from 2007, à 15 Euro; see kansalaisen.karttapaikka.fi for coverage of the sheets.
The terrain is mostly quite easy, but there are large bogs best avoided. The central parts are demanding, with no bridges across the rivers and quite an area without huts.
There are reindeer fences, with few gates. Some checking will prove worthwhile if you deviate from established routes.
- Fell Lapland Nature Centre, ☎ +358 205 64 7950. E-mail tunturi-lappi(at)metsa.fi, Peuratie 15, Hetta. Nice exhibitions, available also for the disabled. Information and advice about the area. Introductory films. Nature trails, campfire shelter. No entrance fee. Maps and books for sale. Guided tours for a fee available if reserved in advance.
- Lake Pöyrisjärvi. The biggest lake in the area, with prehistoric remnants and a Sami summer village.
- Pöyrisvuoma. Large palsa bog by the east shore of Pöyrisjärvi.
- Sand dunes and ridges (on the north-east side of Lake Pöyrisjärvi).
- Näkkälä holy stone (Seitakivi) (near Näkkälä).
- Birds. Many birds, including Arctic species, nest in the bogs and by the lakes, some on the fells.
- Arctic fox, wolverine, stoat and least weasel, but you have to be lucky to see them.
- Hetta–Pöyrisjärvi trail, by foot or by bike. The trail is easy to walk, but stony and thus quite demanding by bike. Not all wet areas have duckboards, so suitable footwear is necessary. The trail is part of the old post route, continuing to Kalkujärvi. The trail is marked to Näkkälä (26 km). There is a snowmobile route leading in the same direction, unsuitable for walking, do not confuse them. The trail from Näkkälä to Pöyrisjärvi (18 km) is unmarked, but quite easy to follow.
- Kalmakaltio–Pöyrisjärvi–Näkkälä trail (93 km) by foot or by bike. The trail is unmarked and goes through the demanding central parts of the wilderness area, with no bridges (fording necessary). There are two routes between Naltijärvi and Suukisautsi, the easterly one partly in Norway (no problem unless you have goods to declare or a dog). There are open wilderness huts at Kalmakaltio, Naltijärvi, Lenkihaka (by the westerly route) and Pöyrisjärvi. Check the route between Pöyrisjärvi and Kalkujärvi carefully, as avoiding the bogs means a lot of kilometres – but getting out on the bogs may be much worse than that.
- Pöyrisjoki river from Pöyrisjärvi to Vuontisjärvi by canoe (100 m/43 km). A demanding route with several stony rapids, best canoed at high waters. The worst rapids are Kuirinkurkkio and Kirkkokurkkio. The former is classified as very dangerous, but can be passed on land. Canoes can be rented from and transported by local businesses.
- Käkkälöjoki river by canoe. Käkkälöjoki begins in Norway, but the ordinary route begins at Kalmakaltio. The river reaches the road after 30 km and Ounasjoki (at Haarakoski) after 40 km, 14,5 km from Hetta. The rapids are easy. One can continue by Ounasjoki.
- Cross-country skiing. No maintained tracks, but who cares!
There are many tourist businesses in the area, happy to tailor a tour for you, offer their specialities or otherwise help you with the arrangements.
The shops in Hetta should have most things you need, although availability of any speciality things (gas for the camping stove, outdoor gear, freeze-dried food) should be checked in advance. Beware of limited opening hours. Some souvenirs can also be bought at the nature centre.
There are shops also in Palojärvi (food, outdoor equipment), Vuontisjärvi and Peltovuoma.
Some equipment can be rented.
For any handicraft, check they are "Sami duodji" and not cheap import. You might want to check beforehand what local craftsmen there are, and where to get their products – many have a shop of their own some distance from whatever point you call the centre.
There are cafés, restaurants and kiosks in Hetta. There is a kiosk in Leppäjärvi (on the way to Palojärvi). There is a restaurant at Palojärvi (near the road to Näkkälä). There are no such services in the wilderness area itself.
Food can be prepared at the stoves in the huts (gas stove in the Pöyrisjärvi huts, more primitive elsewhere), at your camping stove or by open fire.
Making fire is allowed on state owned land in the area (i.e. nearly everywhere), given there is no wildfire warning in effect and no maintained fireplace nearer than 500 metres. Small branches and sticks from the ground may be used without further permits. Use existing fireplaces if possible.
Berries and mushroom can be picked thanks to the right to access. You can also use common wild herbs. For most fishing you need to buy permits. The most popular berries in the area are cloudberry, bilberry and lingonberry.
The water in the area is mostly potable without treatment, but especially in warm periods in the summer you should use your judgement. Boil the water if you are uncertain about the quality.
There are a number of open wilderness huts (autiotupa) and one reservation hut (varaustupa) in the wilderness area and by the routes to the area. You might be able to sleep indoors every night, but you should usually not depend on it.
If you make just a quick hike to Pöyrisjärvi, with car to and from Näkkälä (or bike from Palojärvi), you should be able to reach the lake in a day, sleep in the reservation hut and return the next (or following) day. In good weather such a hike would be possible without much equipment.
The open wilderness huts do not have mattresses, blankets or pillows. The last to arrive has an absolute right to the facilities: if the hut gets crowded, the first to come should leave, be it in the middle of the night. Bigger parties should go to sleep outdoors if they arrive early, so that those arriving later (possibly wet and cold) do not have to wake them up to get a bed. Dogs are allowed if others in the hut permit.
Most of the open wilderness huts are serviced only every two years (firewood and waste), so be considerate. Try to leave the hut in better conditions than it was and report any problems that you cannot fix yourself.
These are the wilderness huts in and near the wilderness area:
- Kalmakaltio (outside the eastern entrance to the area, where Kalmakaltionoja joins Käkkälöjoki, Northwest of Kieritunturi). The Kalmakaltio road ends 1,7 km before the hut, but there is a path. The Käkkälöjoki canoeing route starts here, as does the Kalmakaltio–Pöyrisjärvi–Näkkälä trail (Naaltijärvi: 14 km) and a trail through Pulju Wilderness Area to Lemmenjoki National Park (Vaskolompolo: 25 km). There is accommodation for 6 persons. Free.
- Nallatupa (on the right hand shore of Käkkälöjoki, just after where Suukisjoki joins Käkkälöjoki, 11 km north-north-east of the Peltovuoma village). The hut is just outside the wilderness area, in the Saaravuoma–Kuoskisenvuoma bog protection area. There is accommodation for 12 persons. Free.
- Staalojärvi (at the northern shore of Staalojärvi, north of the Kallajärvet lakes). There is accommodation for 12 persons. There is a canyon half a kilometre west from the hut. Free.
- Korteoja (near Suukisjoki, at the eastern shore of the stream Korteoja from Kortevuoma, north of Suukisvaara). There is accommodation for 6 persons. Free.
- Naltijärvi (at the eastern shore of Naaltijärvi of Käkkälöjoki). There is accommodation for 10 persons. The Naltijärvi Sami summer place is about a kilometre north from the hut. There are trails to the west (Lenkihaka: 10 km), north (Norway 10 km, Kalkujärvi 35 km) and south (Kalmakaltio: 14 km). Free.
- Lenkihaka (by the eastern shore of a lake at Aiteenjoki, between Lenkihaka and Pahtavaara). There is accommodation for 10 persons. There is a place for reindeer separation and marking a kilometre south of the hut. The path westwards leads to the old Sami Kalkujärvi summer village (30 km). Free.
- Näkkälän välitupa (by the path and snowmobile route by the western border of the area, halfway between Hetta and Näkkälä). There is accommodation for 5 persons. Free.
- Pöyrisjärvi. Two compartments, one functioning as open wilderness hut (12 persons), the other as reservation hut (14 persons). There is also a service building with a well. The building is at the south shore of the lake, by the mouth of the stream from Naapajärvi (which on the map is easily mistaken for a bay). Free/11€.
Although there are waste bins at most huts, you should carry your waste out of the wilderness area.
There are camping sites and cottages for rent in Hetta, Nuunanen, Leppäjärvi and Palojärvi.
There are no camping sites within the wilderness area, but see below.
Camping is allowed nearly everywhere, according to the right of access. There are some facilities (such as pit toilets and possibly camp fire places) by the open wilderness huts.
Report your intended route (including alternatives) and timetable to somebody, who can start a rescue operation if you do not return, e.g. the nature centre. Remember to tell when you do return and when you are delayed without an emergency. Notes in the wilderness hut guest books will help in case a rescue operation is started.
Do not go alone. If you are disabled in a minor accident you need somebody to get help. Consider using local guides if you are unsure about your skills (they can also help you get the most out of the hike).
The weather can change quickly and it can be quite cold also in the summer, especially with rain and wind (and really cold indeed in the winter). Adequate equipment is a must.
Finding your way is your responsibility. If you get lost you might be in real trouble, especially unless near the most popular routes. Respect the bogs. Finding a way through one can get really slow and in the worst case you do not find the way back.
Fording can be dangerous when waters are high. Be sure you know how to cope before you have to. It is also easy to hurt one's feet in cold water.
Phone coverage is not guaranteed in the area. Areas without coverage vary by provider and phone. If you need to make a call, try high places. When making an emergency call (112), you can remove the SIM card to make sure the phone uses the best connection available. You can use the number also to tell you are safe.
Mosquitoes and black flies are a nuisance most of the summer. Repellents, long sleeves and a mosquito hat are recommended.
- Øvre Anárjohka National Park to the north or Pulju Wilderness Area and Lemmenjoki National Park to the east: the hardcore hiker needs not leave the backcountry.
- Käsivarsi Wilderness Area with nearly all Finnish peaks over 1000 metres (and the last, Saana, within reach).
- Nordkalottleden trail: 800 km in Finland, Norway and Sweden.
- Pallas-Yllästunturi National Park to the south: there is quite an easy, nice, old and popular trail (55 km) through the park to the bigger tourist resorts at Pallastunturi and farther south.