Soomaa National Park (Estonia)
Only after visiting this region can an outsider truly understand the so called "fifth season" and the importance the flooding rivers play in developing the area's natural beauty.
The fifth season (coined by the locals) gives way to majestic flooding in the Soomaa National Park. The floods are essential for the continued development of the park's ancient bogs. An absolute must to visit is the Kuresoo Bog, one of the best surviving large bogs in all of Estonia. Almost 200 species call the bog home and its effect on the area is unparalleled.
In the winter there are snowshoe tours over the bogs and frozen rivers, while in the other seasons nighttime canoe tours are available. There is even a beaver safari available for outdoorsmen.
Local accommodations are plentiful in Vijandy and a "must do" is to eat traditional Estonian food served at Sookolli Soogituba (Ogre's Dining Room).
What makes the Soomaa National Park special?
It is an ecosystem like no other. Surrounding the massive maze of bouncing bogs are magnificent meadows and forests. In June, the meadows are filled with Siberian Iris' and their radiant blue color
For wildlife enthusiasts, the region is home to over 185 different types of birds such as cranes and the Ural owl. In addition, carnivorous animals such as lynx, wolves and brown bears roam the lands.
The Soomaa also has played a key role in Estonia's history by sheltering many antagonists and freedom fighters. Some of the more famous Estonians to call the area home have been C.R. Jakobson, L. Koidula and M. Saar.
In an area that floods so heavily, the locals understand what life is like being cut off from the outside world. At times a 175-square kilometer region of the park can be flooded with water rising nearly a meter a day for 3-4 days straight. Roads are completely impassable during the fifth season.
The local municipalities value the isolation the flooding brings and have taken steep measures to protect the lands from intrusion. The types of species are monitored and water levels are recorded to see what effect the different levels have on the ecosystem.
What to look for in:
- Spring: Retreating flood waters give way to blossoming flowers
- Summer: The Kuresoo Bog's thriving ecosystem
- Fall: Scores of wildlife preparing for the impending winter
- Winter: Snow covered land giving way to looming floods
Highlights of the Soomaa National Park
- The smell of wild orchids in the summer
- Drifting aimlessly down the river in a canoe
- Snowshoeing through powder filled meadows
- Bouncing on a bog