Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park

Kauhanevan-Pohjankangas National Park features fascinating southern boreal mires, gentle eskers and a diverse cultural history.

The mystique of the mire land

Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park is Geopark’s number one mire-themed site, where one of the finest bog complexes in southern Finland meets the extensive forested esker of Pohjankangas. In addition to the Ice Age, the landscape of the area has been affected by the waves of Lake Ancylus and the extensive mire formation that began as the land rose above sea level after the Ice Age.

Of the geological themes in Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas, the following can be seen in particular:

  • soil formations caused by the ice age
  • the formation and development of mires and their surface morphology
  • groundwater formation
  • springs and natural environments enriched by spring water
  • ravines and erosional remnants
  • cultural history linked to geology

Kauhaneva – Pohjankangas National Park has also extensive restored mires and research has been carried out into the climate impact of mire restoration. The cultural history of the National Park includes the Kyrönkangas road dating from prehistoric times, the Finnish War 1808-1809 and the traces of the Great Famine of 1866-1868.

 

Soil and bedrock features

The landscape of Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park is dominated by soil formations of glacial or biogenic origin. There are no bedrock outcrops marked on maps within the National Park boundary. Even in the vicinity of the park, outcrops are limited to only a few individual cases. 

Under the soil cover, the bedrock of the National Park consists mainly of granite and its close relative granodiorite. Gabbro and quartz diorite are also found in the southwest and west of the park. These rocks, which have slowly crystallized deep underground under high pressure and heat, tell of the great change of the landscape, the collision of continental plates, and the collapse of the mountain range that long ago formed to the Finnish peninsula we now know. At that time, there were also volcanoes in the area, the remains of which can now be found, e.g. From the edges of the Hyypänjoki valley and the scenery of Karvia’s Sarankylä.

Pearl of the mire nature

A gift from the Ice Age

In the end of the last Ice Age, glaciers retreated north. The climate was warming and the surface of the continental glacier was melting rapidly. Water accumulated at the cracks and edges of the glacial lobes, and flowed toward the open Lake Ancylus, south of the glacier. The flowing water carried huge amounts of rock removed by the glacier, which rounded off as it flowed. As the flow rate varied, some of the material accumulated at the bottom of the bed as ridges. This is how the northern part of Pohjankangas, which belongs to the national park, originated.

Further south, masses of water erupting from inside the glacier piled up gravel and sand on the edge of the ice into a huge estuary. As the ice slowly retreated north, the location of the estuary also changed. This gave birth to the southern part of present-day Pohjankangas, which is a permanently closed training area for the Finnish Defense Forces.

After the Ice Age, the Ancylus Lake washed the landscape of the area vigorously. As the land rose, Pohjankangas rose quickly above the water, and beach embankments formed in the coastal zone piled up by waves and ice. These now appear in the landscape as gentle ridges.

Formation and development of bogs

The vast mires of the Kauhaneva originated while the shores of ancient Ancylus Lake were still flushing the area. About 9,000 years ago, there was a bay in the area, which slowly retreated farther as the country rose. The shore was a gentle marshland, with a sedge dominated vegetation. As the land rose, a few small ponds emerged in the area, which, however, soon grew over by peat producing plants.

As the uplift continued, the area was afforested and open water escaped into the valleys of Hyypänjoki and Karvianjoki rivers. However, the humid climate and groundwater conditions led to forest slowly becoming swampy. Surface and groundwater flowing from Nummikangas contributed to the marshland, and eventually the trees in the area died upright. The forest rotted and its remnants were buried in peat. About 5,000 years ago, moss spread to the mire, and the rate of peat accumulation accelerated – Kauhaneva developed into a raised bog.

 

Today, Kauhaneva has 12 separate raised bog massifs that rise higher than the surrounding mires. In the central part of the bog, there is a wide watery aapa mire flowing from north to south. Waters from Nummikangas accumulate here. The Kauhaneva covers an area of ​​about 1,600 hectares and, together with the adjacent Punttukeidas, it forms a mire complex of about 2,500 hectares.

Kauhaneva is a quite thin peatland compared to its area. Maximum peat thickness 4.7 meters is found  northwest of Kauhalampi. In fact, the largest known peat thickness in the Kauhanevan-Pohjankangas National Park is somewhere very different from the actual bog area – it can be found in Kuivakaivo kettle hole, in the Nummikangas esker, where there is a small bog up to seven meters thick.

Hummocks and hollows

Raised bogs are characterized by a surface structure with alternating dry ridges, hummocks, and wet hollows. Like the height curves, the hummocks form a circumferential structure around the central part of the bog. They are positioned transverse to the flow of bog waters. The typical vegetation of the hummocks consists of moss, twigs and pines.

The hollows are depressions, which can be plant-covered, open peat or mud or waterlogged ponds. Vegetation consists mainly of sedges and mosses.

In Kauhaneva, hummocks and hollows alternate in a way typical to raised bogs. The surface structure originated during the warm climate phase that began about 3,000 years ago. The emergence of the surface geomorphology is facilitated by the maritime climate. In summer, you can move along the hummocks in the swamp with almost dry feet. In winter, it is nice to ski especially along the flat frozen hollow surfaces.

A forested peatland by the Kauhalampi lake

There is a special forest on the northwestern shore of Kauhalampi – thick pine trees rise from the peatland in the middle of the bog. A duckboard trail takes you through the forest, following the shore of the pond. A look at the shore reveals that it is quite steep, and the water level considerably low in relation to the swamp. What’s it all about?

Kauhalampi’s coastal forest is a naturally dried peatland. It’s conditions correspond to the peatlands typical of artificially drained bogs. The development of this dry peatland has however been natural. It is related to the thickness growth of the raised bog and the location at the shore of Kauhalampi, which has acted as a natural drying channel. The northwestern shore is closer to the center of the bog than the opposite shore, which has lead to water escaping from the peatland to the pond. This has been enough to alter the habitat so that a pine forest has grown in the middle of the bog. 

An erosional gorge hidden in the spruce forest

On the western edge of the Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park there is an erosional gorge, Katikankanjoni, which is hidden in the spruce forest. The landscape of the area was annexed to the national park a few years ago. Difference in landscape compared to the vast open Kauhaneva mire is huge. The Katikankanjoni is characterized by steep slopes, large elevation differences and small streams  flowing in the shady spruce forest.

Katikankanjoni is an erosion gorge or a ravine. It is the result of three streams flowing and meandering on a flat sandy esker leveled by the waves of ancient Lake Ancylus. The slow consumption of streams flowing from the direction of Kauhaneva and Kauhajärvi has consumed 20-meter-deep gorges into the ridge. Between the meandering streams, there are erosional remnants, such as the triangular Kolmentuulenlakki (Three Winds Cap). Its flat top tells you what level the ground was at before the erosion.

The demanding Katikankierros hiking trail runs along the creeks of Katikankanjoni. The streams of the meandering streams are still alive today. In the canyon you can see fairly recent landslides and dry remnants of former stream channels. In the spring, there may be floods in Katikankanjoni. Wild trout live in the creeks of the area.

Midsummer festivities were once danced on the plateau at the top of the Kolmentuulenlakki. Now a pine forest grows on the top, but at one time the landscape was more open. Katikankanjoni continues to the north and widens into the great Hyypänjoki Valley, which is one of the largest and deepest valleys in all of Western Finland.

An ancient passage through the wilderness

Kauhaneva is one of the few places where a road belonging to Finland’s medieval highways runs through a mire. The Kyrönkangas summer road, which follows Hämeenkangas and Pohjankangas, crosses Kauhaneva at its narrowest point, flanking Kauhalammi shore. From the 16th century onwards, the maintenance of the section of the road across the bog was the responsibility of the peasants of Ilmajoki parish, situated north of the Geopark. Several bridges and drums were built along the route to lead the waters of Kauhalampi under a narrow road.

The route was already known in prehistoric times. During its existence the surrounding mire has grown in thickness. Maybe crossing the Kauhaneva was initially easier than it is today? Namely, Pohjankangas esker dives into the peat at its northern tip, to rise from the peat as Nummikangas esker about half a kilometer further north.

Automobiles were still driven across the swamp in the 1950s, but since then the road section has been protected as a museum road reserved for walking and cycling. Walking on a narrow road in the middle of the swamp, you can feel the weight of thousands of steps under your feet and imagine the mental landscape of passers-by in the past.

On ancient routes

Lapinkaivo – a pond full of stories

There is a kettle hole in Kauhanevan-Pohjankangas National Park, which is already mentioned in old stories. The place known as Lapinkaivo (Lapland’s well) probably got its name from the ancient Lappish population of the area.

At the end of the Ice Age, a huge glacial river flowed in the area. It piled up sand and gravel on its bottom. The coarsest gravel accumulated in strong streams, the sand in the area of ​​a calmer flow. The handsome rocks of Lapinharju ridge suggest that there was a lot of water flowing on the site. As the ice retreated north, huge blocks of ice occasionally came off it. One of them split at Lapinkaivo and was buried in the sand. As the climate warmed, the ice block melted. All that was left was a large pit that extended below the groundwater level. A pond was born.

The Lapinkaivo is said to be bottomless. The depth has been tried to be measured without success. It is said that the elf of the lake once shouted “Go and measure the distance between Nummi and Kantti, then you will find out the depth of this pond!”. According to the story, the Russians have sunk their cannons into the mud-based pond to avoid them falling into the hands of Finns. People have also apparently been drowned there, sometimes with horse-drawn carriages, sometimes without.

The diameter of the Lapinkaivo is about 100 meters. The open water is about 50 meters wide. It is estimated to have at least five meters of water in the middle and a layer of mud at least two meters thick below it. The surface of the Lapinkaivo is 22 meters below the top of the adjacent Lapinharju ridge.

The Finnish War

The Finnish War in 1808-1809 ended 700 years of Swedish rule in Finland. From the 12th century, Finland formed the eastern part of Sweden, the Eastland, which was an important region for Sweden during its high reign. Through Finland, Sweden was also linked to Russia – these great powers of that time fought on Finnish soil several times.

The battles of the Finnish war left their mark on the mental landscape of the region. The enemy thoroughly destroyed the area’s population and population, worse than anywhere else in Finland during the war. The battles were fought in Kauhajoki and Nummijärvi, among others. The harshness of the war in the area was also influenced by the guerrilla warfare of the local population – the retreat of the Swedish army from the area forced the locals to defend their own country.

The troops moved in the area along the old road Kyrönkankaantie, through the present day National Park: first the Swedish army retreated through the area, then the Russian army moved into the area. After the Finnish War, Kyrönkankaantie calmed down into a quiet local road, and Kauhaneva got peace.

Cultural history of the wilderness

Traces of the years of great famine

The last famine in Finland and in the whole of Northern Europe was experienced in 1866 – 1868. The great famine years killed almost a tenth of the Finnish population, almost 200,000 people. Traces of famine can also be seen in the Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park.

The famine had many causes, most notably the unfavorable climate phase known as the Little Ice Age, which was accompanied by strong climate variations. Although the climate phase is considered to have ended in 1850, the cold summers continued in Finland until the end of the 1860s, and three consecutive years of failure of crops were experienced from 1865 onwards. In the coldest years, the snow melted from southern Finland only in May, and the autumn frosts began as early as the beginning of September.

The famine was treated in Finland with compensated food aid. Large crowds of beggars were not given free food, but received it in exchange for work. Roads and railways were built as emergency relief work and lakes were drained. This work extended to Kauhaneva as well – a 300 meters long drainage channel was dug from Kauhalammi towards the west. The ditch can still be seen on maps today.  Another channel nearly 900 meters long was dug towards the east. 

The Great Famine years in Finland did not become an event defining national identity, though, unlike the Great Famine in Ireland (1845-1852). However, there are about a hundred monuments in Finland, one of which is on the edge of Lapinkaivo in the northern part of the national park.  

Fascinating trails and routes

The trails and routes of Kauhanevan-Pohjankangas National Park are suitable for both beginners and experienced nature walkers and cyclists.

Check out the trails and routes in Kauhaneva and Katikankanjoni on Retkikartta.fi.

Routes of Kauhaneva-Pohjankangas National Park in Nationalparks.fi 

Also check out the contents of Kauhanevan-Pohjankangas National Park in Metsähallitus’ mobile guide at Lauhanvuoriregion.fi.

Text: Pasi Talvitie

Images: Terttu Hermansson, Pasi Talvitie

Sources: Andrew G. Newby: Finland’s “Great Hunger Years” Memorials: A Sesquicentennial Report.1 (s. 184) Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies

https://katovuodet1860.wordpress.com/2018/07/26/lapinkaivo-juurakko-gustaf/

https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-9738085

Samuli Paulaharju, 1910 (https://www.messon.fi/kyronkankaantie/paulaharju.htm)

Geologian tutkimuskeskus, 2018 (GTK/801/03.02/2016, Lauhanvuoren Geopark-alueen turvetutkimukset -raportti)