Posted by: Rasma R | September 28, 2013

Soomaa National Park, Estonia

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Soomaa National Park is located in southwestern Estonia. Its name Soomaa means “land of the bogs” and it was established in 1993. The area within the park protects large raised bogs, flood plain grasslands, paludified forests, and meandering rivers. The rivers of the Parnu River basin separate the large mires which cover this national park. Of all of the raised bogs the most notable one is the Kuresoo. On the east side of the Soomaa National Park one can find the highest dunes on the Estonian mainland and it has the largest intact peat bog system in Europe preserved as wilderness. The park joined the PAN Parks network of wilderness areas in 2009 since it had proved to be excellent in combining wilderness protection and sustainable tourism development.

Soomaa National Park has alluvial meadows and forests which cover its riverbanks. There are also unique swamp forests. There is a large population of birds from many different species in the bogs such as the Golden Eagle, the Whimbrel a wading bird (over a 100 pair), European golden plover, the Merlin or small falcon species, and Montague’s Harrier a migratory bird of prey. When autumn comes during the migration period the park is a stopover and roosting site for around 1000 Common Crane or Eurasian Crane and the Tundra Swan a small Holarctic swan about 500. It is also an important spawning ground for northern pike.  There are also mammals to be seen which are extinct or rarely seen in other parts of Europe and larger mammal species such as the roe deer, elk, and wild boar. One may also spot beaver, lynx, wolf, and brown bear.

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Soomaa National Park is also an area for research for large carnivores and herbivores in Estonia Visitors arriving at the park stop at the visitor’s center where they can get all the information they need about what to see and explore in the park. You can get printed guides, see films and there is a small public library. They also provide educational lectures and the chance to participate in the different workshops and programs. There are many hiking, study, and camping trails. Along these you can see lots of nature, animals and birds. Some of the trails also have watchtowers for better views.

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Soomaa offers visitors five seasons – spring, summer, autumn, winter and high-water season. From April to October one can go canoeing and guided trips are available on traditional dugout canoes. There are log-boat building camps in the summer. For bog walks there are wooden walkways for visitors so they can see all of the special flora and fauna in the deep peat bogs. In the winter when the wetland is frozen one can join snowshoe and sledge tours which are organized over the frozen bogs. The European Commission awarded the national park in 2009 for being a supreme nature holiday destination.

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