Bogged Down in Soomaa: An Estonia Wetlands Adventure

  • 2016-03-07
  • By City Paper Staff

Tallinn - While a forest may be what typically comes to mind when daydreaming about a peaceful walk in nature, a bog may be the very thing to recharge your batteries and bring some serenity to your world. Bogs, as it happens, are highly underrated, mostly due to the images conjured up of murky, swampy, damp areas that one can’t easily walk through. And certainly not a spot one would think to bring the whole family.
This negative press just makes the magical bogs of Estonia an even better place to escape to, given their relatively untouched atmosphere and ancient beauty.

“A bog is never the same place twice,” says local bog-aficionado, Asta, herself a fan of the wetlands since childhood. Indeed, the ever-changing nature of the bog itself makes for a new adventure every time you visit.
The ancient seabed of Soomaa (literally “land of bogs”) in southwestern Estonia was created about 12,000 years ago during the last bit of the Ice Age. Now a national park and host to 390 km of bogs, in addition to being a natural wonder, Soomaa holds a European record for being the largest peat bog still intact.

The entrance to the park is in the town of Jõesuu, and the visitor’s center in Kõrtsi-Tõramaa can provide all the information needed, as well as all-important trail maps for navigation.

There is no ideal time of day to visit; it simply depends on the adventurer’s priorities. Nighttime is no barrier to activity, as night canoeing, especially when the northern lights are active, is a favored activity. However, for those who wish to see beavers at play, afternoons are best. For those photo enthusiasts who wish for the perfect misty morning lighting to capture the intrigue and movement of the bogs, sunrise is the best time. For more industrious types, building log boats (haabjas), similar to those of Stone Age times, is still an activity practiced today to navigate Soomaa’s floods and endless waterways. This activity is best done in Karukose. Craving a minimalistic meander? There are many bog trails to wander down, made of planks to guide the way and keep shoes (relatively) dry as one moseys over the peat. March and April are known for being months in which the bog floods, but this shouldn’t stop anyone from getting out and enjoying canoeing or log boating.

When things start to dry out a bit, the following are recommended hikes:
•  Riisa hiking trail: 5 km / Riisa bog / watchtower
•  Ingatsi hiking trail: 4.5 km / Kuresoo bog / watchtower
•  Beaver trail: 2 km / Beaver habitat and paludified forest
•  Oksa track: 800 m / cultural heritage object and meadows
•  Kuuraniidu hiking trail: 1.2 km / old forest habitat / watchtower
•  Mulgi meadow: camping site / flood plain grasslands / rich bird habitat
•  Tõramaa hiking trail: 2.5 km / Halliste meadow, rich bird habitat / bird watchtower
•  Meiekose hiking trail: 2.8 km / old cart road through abandoned Tõramaa village
  Kuresoo hiking trail: 32 km / various landscape and historical sites
•  Hüpassaare study trail: 5 km / Kuresoo bog / semi-natural habitats / museum of Mart Saar
•  Tipu study trail: 3 km / historical sites / traditional rural landscape

It’s a truly magical place. Where flooding brings canoers and water adventurers, and dryness brings even more territory to explore, there is something for adventurers every season, and spring is the best time to get, literally, bogged down.

Photos Courtesy of the Estonian Tourist Board and Juozas Salna

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