In 2017, Hossa – an area of pristine wilderness with superb hiking near Finland’s eastern border – will become the country’s 40th national park. Photographer George Turner spent three days wild camping in the region and met a few fluffy locals along the way. Here are a few of his best photographs of Finland’s newest national park – and its wild residents.
Wild camping in Hossa
Like so much of Finland, Hossa is awash with lake after glorious lake. Yet, there’s a mystical allure about this soon-to-be national park that sets it apart from its famous southern neighbours. Nestled along the Finnish-Russian border 500 miles north of Helsinki, Hossa – even by Finland’s standards – is remote. You’re more likely to meet wolverines than people when wild camping here.
Kayaking the waterways
The region is an old Sámi hunting ground; dwellings in the area date back to roughly 8000 BC. Water routes have allowed people to travel through the Hossa to the Arctic Ocean and from the Gulf of Bothnia to the White Sea. Water transport remains the easiest way to get around, even in the twenty-first century.
Aside from a slim stretch of land along Norwegian border, Finland is flat. Very flat. Hossa defies this, as the cliffs of Julma-Ölkky canyon tower 50m above the freshwater below. It’s so clean – and cold – that bringing drinking water just isn’t necessary.
Reindeer roam the park
Bumping into ‘the locals’ is a frequent occurrence; only these locals have antlers and four legs. To this day, the Sámi people continue to farm reindeer from around the Hossa area northwards into Lapland. The reindeer are released from paddocks at the end of spring, free to roam the Finnish wilderness.
The midnight sun lights up the pine trees
Pine forests dominate the lake shorelines, largely untouched by deforestation due to the remoteness of the region. In June and July, the midnight sun skirts above the horizon seemingly setting the trees on fire; something best experienced on the water itself.
Wood cabins are free to use
These laavu are free-to-use shelters scattered throughout the land – predominately built by wilderness students – complete with a sleeping area, fire pit, and log shed. They make for a cosy home after a long day’s trekking through the park.
With little human population, wildlife thrives in Hossa
This is one of the least densely populated regions in Europe and a result it’s the wildlife that rules this kingdom. Countless types of trees, shrubs and plants, thousands of fish species, hundreds of birds and raptors and most famous of all, it’s apex predators.
Brown bears are a common sight
European brown bears, wolverines and Eurasian wolves call Hossa home. The region’s eco-system lends itself perfectly for species to thrive; from freshwater lakes through to peat bogs, boreal pine forests through to thick beech tree woodland.
The region has the most European brown bears per kilometre on the entire continent, a fact that’s beginning to ignite an eco-tourism explosion in the area.
European brown bears are intensely sociable animals, especially the cubs. They’ll happily frolic around for hours whilst their mother finds food sources. From the relative comfort of a hide, wildlife and photography enthusiasts alike are now able to see this up close, with very little disturbance to the environment.
For the extra hardy, seriously cosy one-man hides are available to hire across the region. Hike into the woods during the afternoon and by early evening you’ll be surrounded on all sides. This is by far the best teddy bears’ picnic you could ever have.