Skuleskogen national park
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Officially declared a national park area in 1984 by the Swedish government after initial arrangements in 1979, Skuleskogen, part of Sweden's High Coast between the communities of Örnsköldsvik and Kramfors at the country's central east coast combines a spectacular variety of mountainous geology, untamed coastal forest, and signs of ancient human presence. The park covers an area of 24 km² (9 sq mi), and three adjacent wildlife sanctuaries bring the protected nature in the region to a total area of 30 km² (12 sq mi).
Skuleskogen is part of Höga Kusten, the High Coast of Sweden, a larger area between Örnsköldsvik and Kramfors declared a World Heritage site by UNESCO in the year 2000 for its unique geology. The park area has also been declared a Natura 2000 area by the government as part of an EU project to protect the habitats of endangered species, and the High Coast is on the list of Baltic Sea Protected Areas designated by Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (Helsinki Commission, or HELCOM).
The region has experienced an unmatched land elevation since the latest ice age. 20,000 years ago, the landscape was depressed by a record 800 m (2,600 ft) below the current level under the weight of a 3 km (10,000 ft) thick ice cap, only to rise back up in the post-glacial period, a relative rise of 285 m (935 ft) above the current sea level. This elevation continues at a rate of 8 mm (about 5⁄16 in) per year, and it is believed the land may rise another 50 m yet. This is the highest isostatic (as opposed to tectonic) elevation in the world following the latest ice age. It is matched only to some extent by Canada's Hudson Bay with a relative rise of 272 m (892 ft) and a much greater distance between geohistorically highest and current coastline.
Sweden's mountainous north extends all the way to the east coast at the Bothnian Sea, part of the Baltic. The landscape is dramatic with 300 m (980 ft) high hills right near the coastline contrasted by a water depth of over 70 m (230 ft) outside the archipelagic islands.
While many of the geological features are a result of the latest ice age and subsequent land elevation, and all of them certainly have been accentuated by it, a number of formations date back 800 million years to when crevices began forming in the bedrock. Consisting primarily of the red Nordingrå granite of rapakivi (rotten stone) type, the bedrock is easily decomposed owing to its large crystals, leading to a landscape of straight lines with flat ledges of rock in regular staircase patterns.
The park's northeast features mineral-rich diabase, which petrifies into fertile soil and, like Nordingrå granite, is easily decomposed. It is believed that the erosion of a vein of diabase caused the formation of one of the park's most impressive features, Slåttdalsskrevan, a crevice of about 200 m (660 ft) in length, 40 m (130 ft) in depth, and 7 m (23 ft) in width, in this once submarine landscape. The erosion has also caused caves to form, examples of which can be seen east of the Tärnavattnen tarns north of Slåttdalsskrevan and in the Slåttdalsberget hill south of it.
A number of small brooks including Skravelbäcken in the park's north make the area come to life in the spring flood as they lead the water from the hilltops. The brook valleys of the park make an important habitat for many rare birds. Some of the highest hilltops were protected from the sea by their elevation, and as a result have forests growing in the fertile moraine deposited by the inland ice, while their sides and the surrounding flat rock terrain are barren, having been swept clean over thousands of years, particularly in the area around 286 m (938 ft) above sea level. At this elevation, only a few windblown, dwarfed pines have managed to root in cracks or in subsequently decomposed rock 9,000 years after the land rose from the sea. Barren cobblestone fields line the hillsides as smaller sediments have been washed further down the valleys.
As starved and twisted as the pines growing in the park's flat rock terrain may be, they are remarkably old, with some trees being over 500 years of age. Thriving among the pines is the dicerca moesta beetle. Spruce dominates the thick forests on the hilltops and in the valleys. Rare lichen species include Methuselah's beard lichen and ring lichen. Between 1860 and 1900, the area was all but deforested, and, as a result, the forest is highly homogeneous in age.
Skuleskogen is somewhat of a phytogeographical borderland. On some fertile, south-facing slopes, hardwood like small-leaved lime, Norway maple, and hazel have a northerly outpost, an hypothesized commemoration of times of warmer climate. The rare wood fescue grass, which has taken a toll owing to modern logging, is also found here. Drooping woodreed, more common east of Sweden, is abundant in the local region. Other plants make unusually easterly appearances, such as alpine blue-sow-thistle, three-leaved rush, alpine saw-wort, alpine catchfly, and the decorative hard-fern.
Ghost orchid has been observed in two locations in the park. On the Slåttdalsmyren bog, enriched with limestone from diabase or possibly a vein of amphibolite, one finds the Scottish asphodel (also in an unusually easterly location), broad-leaved cottongrass, early marsh-orchid, twayblade, and bog orchid.
Many woodpeckers thrive in relatively great numbers in the quiet, old, coniferous forest. Gray-headed woodpecker, black woodpecker, three-toed woodpecker, lesser spotted woodpecker, and great spotted woodpecker are among the more common ones, but there are even sightings of the white-backed woodpecker. All the sylvan gallinaceous birds of Sweden are represented in the park: capercally, hazel grouse, black grouse, and ptarmigan.
In the deciduous valleys, winter wren, wood warbler, blackcap, coal tit, and crested tit are among the nesting inhabitants, as are sometimes Siberian jay and bohemian waxwing, which are normally found in Sweden's interior north.
The park's mammals include European elk (moose), roe deer, fox, badger, ermine, marten, mountain hare, red squirrel, and assorted small rodents. Skiing across the bare hills in the winter is a nice, alpine experience with the chance of spotting tracks of lynx.
The fact that the distance between the current and the historically highest coastline is a mere 2 km (1¼ mi) has lead to well-preserved remains of coastal activities spanning three millennia. The oldest and perhaps most prominent signs of human life are the coastal grave mounds dating as far back as to the earlier bronze age (1500–500 BCE in Sweden). Now located around 40 m (130 ft) above sea level, these graves were once built on the shore between Näskefjärden and Kälaviken. Little is known about those buried here, but they are believed to have lived farther from the coast.
The park is not thought to have been permanently inhabited by humans at any stage, but the area has been used for mountain pasture as recently as the end of the 19th century, and some of the structures at Näskebodarna are old chalet-like cabins. The buildings elsewhere are gone, but their foundations and grazing grounds can still be seen, and some of the park trails are old trails that once interconnected the chalets.
There are a total of 28 km (17 mi) of trails crisscrossing the park, all connected directly or indirectly to the 127 km (79 mi) long High Coast Trail, which passes through the park. The trails lead across widely varying altitudes, and hiking along them requires good physique. The High Coast trail passes the Slåttdalsskrevan crevice.
One can see a considerable part of the park in a single day, but its size and beauty may still warrant a desire to stay longer. Camping in a tent is allowed in selected locations along the coastline and at the Skrattabborrtjärnen tarn only, and for no more than one night at a time in any given spot. Campfires may only be lit in prearranged locations; making a fire elsewhere may permanently damage the rock surface and may be a fire hazard. There are also a number of cabins that are free of charge and open throughout the whole year.
A cabin with privy at Skrattabborrtjärnen sleeps six. There is no real source of usable water here. Another cabin with privy at at Tärnättvattnen, where the water is usually of good quality, accommodates two. The Lillruten cabin has six beds, while a cabin with privy at Näskebodarna, where water can be taken from the nearby creek, can accommodate up to three people. All cabins feature heating stoves. There is also a cabin at Tärnättholmarna, and another cabin, booked in advance through Skule Naturum nature center for up to four paying visitors, at Näskebodarna with a heating stove that can be used for cooking.
The Nature Center at the wildlife sanctuary at Skuleberget near European route E4 has exhibits with visitor information about the High Coast and the national park and its nature and history. It is open all days of the week from June through August, and Monday to Thursday the rest of the year.
The best access to the park is along the High Coast Trail from the south, just past Käl. Signs from the E4 at Docksta point to the national park. The parking lot at the simple rest stop holds about forty cars, and visitor information is posted at the High Coast Trail park entrance. The Slåttdalsskrevan crevice is about 5 km (3 mi) away.
The parking lot at Näske in the north is about the same size, but the road may not always be open, particularly when the frost breaks. Signs point from the E4 at Bjästa, and visitor information is posted at the park entrance. The park is also relatively close to the E4 at the municipality border between Kramfors and Örnsköldsvik, but parking may be difficult, especially during winter.
Following is a translation of the conditions governing Skuleskogen national park, obtained from internat.naturvardsverket.se. It may be out of date, and is for educational purposes only. Do not blame me if you get in trouble, yada, yada. The conditions translated into the text below apply only to Skuleskogen. Other national parks have other conditions specified for them.
Regulations for Skuleskogen National Park
Extract from Proclamation SNFS 1984:6
Regulations for the national park, based on the second paragraph of § 5 and the second paragraph of § 6 of the of the Nature Conservation Act
Regulations concerning prohibited activities
In addition to prohibitions and regulations specified in laws and other statutes, it is forbidden to
The foregoing regulations shall not comprise a hindrance to measures taken in accordance with an approved management plan.
Regulations for the general public
In addition to prohibitions and regulations specified in laws and other statutes, it is forbidden to
Proclamation 1984:6. This proclamation shall come into effect two weeks following the date of printing. (Date of printing: 13 June 1984.)
Information synthesized from www.naturvardsverket.se, www.y.lst.se, www.highcoast.net, www.skulenaturum.se, and www.helcom.fi. When I began noding the national parks of Sweden, there were no translations of the national park regulations available, and I translated the regulations myself. Since then, the Swedish EPA has begun publishing translations on their Web site, from where the regulations above were blatantly copied and marked up. The regulations are explicitly excluded from protection by the copyright law (1960:729) in 9 § of said law.