Repovesi National Park and Aarnikotka Forest Nature Reserve, owned by UPM, form a large, rugged backwoods region dotted by dozens of clear water lakes. Trekkers will enjoy delectable hiking trails passing through memorable sceneries as well as canoeing routes on waters that have hundreds of stories to tell. This beautiful, protected area of forests and lakes and the monument of forest industry history, Verla, are connected by the significant role of the forest giant UPM in the everyday life of the region.
Company Forests and Mills
People have been roaming in Repovesi from the beginning of time. The area has always been important to woodcrafting. Burn-clearing and tar burning gave a start to forestry in the 17th century, which went on for about two centuries, until the 19th century. In the 18th century water mills also began processing wood in a small scale. The peak period of forest industry began at the end of the 19th century and continued until the 1970's. The majority of the forests in Repovesi were transferred in 1913 from Rudolf Elving to Kymiyhtiö Corporation, current name UPM, founded in 1904. Forest industry grew rapidly in southeastern Finland and the company had to ensure a steady supply of wood. Repovesi saw its forests become company forests. Great timber rafting routes, the Savonrata railway, finished at the end of the 19th century, and the forest road network built during the 1960's and 1970's made the area extremely valuable for wood supply.
While the forests of Repovesi kept up with the constantly growing needs of Voikkaa, Kuusankoski and Kymintehdas, Verla acquired spruce pitwood from the northern parts of the Mäntyharju route. From there it was rafted to the mill. As competition was intensifying, Verla had also taken steps to ensure their wood supply and actively bought up forest plots. Verla's considerable forest holdings were a key factor in the change of ownership in 1922: the ownership of Verla was transferred to Kymi Corporation along with Kissakoski Oy, which had acquired Verla just two years earlier, in 1920.
Natural Diversity and World Heritage
During corporate management both Repovesi and Verla were active forest industry producers, bringing prosperity to the neighboring areas. Repovesi guaranteed wood supply to the mills, and Verla was world-renowned for their high quality cardboard.
The forests of Repovesi were actively harvested until the 1970's. The landscape was that of a typical clear-cut commercial forest. The last massive loggings were done in 1977, after which the use of the area cooled down. In accordance with their strategy to preserve the diversity of forests, created between 1997 and 2001, UPM made a significant land donation to the state in February 2002 and submitted an application for the protection of the surrounding areas under the Nature Conservation Act. Repovesi National Park and Aarnikotka Forest Nature Reserve were established on January 1st, 2003. The company forests had received a new, important mission to act as a bridge between nature and man.
Industrial activity ended in Verla in 1964 when the mill's aged machines spat out the final piece of cardboard for export and the remaining few dozen employees were retired along with their workplace. After a few years' preparation a plan to turn the mill into a museum was finalized in June 1969, and the museum opened its doors in 1972. The area had become an important recreation grounds for the Kymiyhtiö Corporation personnel, so forming the museum was an excellent way to improve the welfare of the company's own employees while offering the public a view to an important part of forest industry history. Verla was named a World Heritage Site in December 1996 with the following criterion: The Verla Groundwood and Board Mill and its associated habitation is an outstanding and remarkably well preserved example of the small-scale rural industrial settlement associated with pulp, paper, and board production that flourished in northern Europe and North America in the 19th and early 20th centuries, of which only a handful survives to the present day.
Repovesi area and Verla World Heritage Site form an exceptional part of Finnish forest industry history and nature. Numerous tales of woodcraft, timber rafting and logging and the ongoing preservation of natural diversity create a colourful and diverse environment for guests who enjoy nature and history.
Canoeing on the Timber Route
The Timber Route is a 30 km long, themed canoeing route from Repovesi National Park to Verla.
Services related to canoeing in the National Park
- Accommodation: Saarijärvi Forestry Hut, House of Tolonen, Resin Cottage, Kuutti Cabin, Rentable Lapp Huts
- Kuutinlahti Canoeing Base (self service), with canoes and kayaks
Services related to canoeing in the World Heritage Site
- Accommodation: Verla Cottages, Rafting Cottage
- Verla Canoeing Base (self service), with dual kayaks and canoes (by order only)
More information on canoeing routes and bases