Fulufjället national park

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The twenty-eighth and latest addition to the national parks of Sweden, Fulufjället national park was designated on August 1, 2002 as the result of 13 years of planning and preparation and marks the southern end of Sweden's part of the Scandinavian Mountain Range (known as Fjällen or Skanderna in Swedish). The park is located in the municipality of Älvdalen in the northwest of Dalarna County. Bordering Norway in the west, the park covers an area of 385 square kilometers (150 square miles) and is dominated by heaths and mountains extending above the tree line, although its most prominent feature is doubtlessly the waterfall at Njupeskär.

The park is one of the first three national parks in Europe to be PAN certified by the Protected Area Network of Parks, founded by the WWF and Dutch leisure company Molecaten Groep to promote the combination of tourism and conservation. The certificate was issued along with those for Poland's Bieszczady and Finland's Oulanka national parks at Fulufjället's opening ceremony on September 17, 2002, supervised by His Majesty King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden.

Fulufjället national park marks the ascent of the dramatic and varied landscape of Dalarna into the harsh Scandinavian Mountain Range with a gently rolling, steep-edged plateau at 900 meters (3000 feet) above sea level and peaking at Brattfjället's 1,042 meters (3,419 feet). The plateau has an expansive system of lakes with char and salmon trout.

The mountain itself consists of 900-million-year-old sandstone, deposited while Sweden was located in the ocean south of the equator as evidenced by signs of waves in some boulders, with a smaller part diabase. A few kilometers of the bedrock was taken off by erosion some 200 million years ago, and the last 60 million years of erosion from the water, glaciers, temperature, wind, and sun gave the area its present shape with boulders, steep hills, and deep canyons. Many geological phenomena indicative of both cold winters and the melting process from the latest ice age can be found here. A fine- to average size grain, grayish or grayish green rock called särnait, a nepheline syenite whose nepheline has been partially replaced by cancrinite, is only found in the northwestern region of Dalarna.

On August 30, 1997, the area was hit by a unique event that was to redefine the local nature. For twelve hours, 400 millimeters (15.75 inches) of rain poured down. The average precipitation per year is about 480 millimeters (19 inches). The event was unprecedented in Scandinavia. Streams and small rivers swelled about 500 times in volume as a massive flood tore up and washed away giant trees, dirt, rocks, and even bedrock over vast areas.

The effects of the flood rain were disastrous, but give an excellent opportunity for visitors to examine from a watchtower and marked trails nature's immense power to heal itself. Beaver and otter as well as birds like the gray wagtail, and the dipper are appearing along the shores. The vast amount of dead wood has benefited mushrooms and beetles, including 29 species of bark beetle.

Some of Sweden's most impressive predators thrive in the hillside forests of the park; lynx are relatively plentiful, and some ten bears hibernated here in the fall of 2001. Many trees give a hint of the bear population with claw marks from the brown bears' hunting for their favorite snack: carpenter ants. In the whortleberry and bog whortleberry season in the fall, a large bear can eat about 100 kilograms (220 pounds) of berries in a single day, eating constantly for 20 hours. Needless to say, this produces large piles of droppings. For less smelly tracks, paw marks can sometimes be found in wet soil near water or on the trails of the park.

Mors lilla Olle i skogen gick,
Mommy's boy, Olle, walked in the woods
rosor på kind och solsken i blick.
Rosy cheeks and the sun in his eyes
Läpparna små utav bär äro blå
Little lips blue from berries he ate
"Bara jag slapp att så ensam här gå"
"If only I didn't have to walk here alone"

Brummelibrum, vem lufsar där?
Growl, growl, who is lumbering there?
Buskarna knaka. En hund visst det är.
Shrubs are creaking. I guess it's a dog.
Lurvig är pälsen. Men Olle blir glad.
The fur is shaggy. But Olle is glad
"Å, en kamrat, det var bra, se god dag!"
"Oh, a friend, that's good, well hello!"

There isn't a child in Sweden who doesn't know the song above. In the following two verses, Olle feeds the bear blueberries from his basket before his mother chases the bear off. It is based on an event that took place in the area in September of 1850.

Jon Ersson (not Olle), one and a half years old, was gathering lingonberries (not blueberries) with his older siblings, when a female bear and her cub appeared nearby. Jon approached the bears and started playing with them and feeding them berries. When the boy finally leaned on the older bear to rest, his 8-year-old sister, who described the bears as "big, black dogs", called for her mother who rushed to the site, causing the bears to calmly leave.

The popular children's song was written by Alice Tegnér three decades later, inspired by a poem by Wilhelm von Braun, who had read about the event in a Norwegian newspaper.

Jon's family lived on a chalet site, known as a säter in this part of Sweden. Swedish mountain cattle and goats were kept in the woods during the summers. Many of these buildings still remain together with signs of irrigated wetlands, and are part of a rich cultural heritage. Signs of even earlier civilization include a few graves, iron-making kilns and whetstone quarries from the iron age. There is a mysterious altar circle on top of the mountain, which is the highest altitude altar in Sweden. It is thought that it was originally a site for capturing gyrfalcon.

Wolves, wolverines, and arctic foxes are occasional visitors to the park. The male elks grow impressively large in the area, and their horns can sometimes be found on the ground. Gray-sided vole and wood lemming are among the smaller inhabitants. Occasionally, there will be more lemmings than normal, and in those years, boreal owls, hawk owls, rough-legged hawks and merlins will be attracted in great numbers.

The wetlands, the forest, and the valleys provide an essential habitat for a number of bird species. Boreal owl, common swift, and three-toed woodpecker inhabit cavities in living trees and hollow, dead trees. Capercailzies duke it out in the glades with the golden eagle soaring above.

The plateau features other birds, such as ring ouzel, brambling, Lapland longspur, bluethroat, willow ptarmigan, golden plover, and whimbrel. The heaths have plenty of cuckoos, which lay their eggs in the nests of the meadow pipit. Common scoter and red-necked phalarope nest by the highland lakes.

The Siberian jay, featured in the park's symbol, thrives in the primeval forest on the eastern hillside with 300- to 500-year-old pine and spruce trees, several meters in diameter and up to 40 meters (130 ft) in height, and hanging lichens. Many living trees are marked from several wildfires. Below the trees grow wolfsbane, alpine blue-sow-thistle, and garden angelica.

Reindeer pasture is prohibited within the park, a unique condition for the mountain region of Sweden. This allows the particularly rich heaths of lichen to thrive, including thick covers of reindeer lichens. Boulders turned green by map lichens are scattered throughout the landscape. Over 800 species of lichen and moss grow in the park, which features some seventy endangered species of lichen, moss, and mushrooms.

In the highlands, barren heaths of matgrass and blue heath spread out and feature bog birch and some unusually southerly samples of mountain sorrel, highland saxifrage, and Scheuchzer's cotton-grass. Below the tree line, the primeval, coniferous forest spreads out, marking the southern border for many of the animals and plants typically found in the mountainous region of Sweden.

The park is a modern national park designed not only to preserve nature, but also to give visitors an opportunity to enjoy it, which has earned it its PAN certificate. This is achieved by a unique division into different zones with a varying level of protection. The park's large size is used to accommodate the interests of visitors and the local population as some zones allow for fishing, elk hunting, and the use of snowmobiles in about 25% of the park, while its central regions are protected by prohibiting all activities affecting the natural environment.

The most prominent feature of all in the park is the waterfall at Njupeskär, where the Njupån stream plunges a total of 93 meters (305 feet) with a free fall of 70 meters (230 feet), more than any other waterfall in the country. The Njupeskär entrance with its well-developed facilities, including a visitor center, an exhibition, and a cafeteria, provides very easy access to the fall.

People have visited the area to see the magnificent falls for over 150 years. During the winter, it freezes to an impressive ice sculpture, making it a popular climbing challenge for many adventurous visitors. Ice climbing is permitted from December 1 to March 31. No other rock climbing is permitted. Ice climbing is a dangerous activity, and is not for the untrained. Since the park's opening, it has already cost the life of one expert ice climber, a 30-year-old security advisor working for Swedish TV 4.

Other activities include some limited fishing and rental boats. Skiing (cross-country) in the winter is becoming increasingly popular.

Trails lead from the Njupeskär entrance to the lakes and cabins on the park's northern highlands. There are some 140 kilometers (87 miles) of marked trails in the park, and fifteen cabins with a total of about 30 beds provide the opportunity to stay overnight or just take a small break.

About 35,000 people per year visited the area before it became a national park, which is a small amount considering the size of the park, so there is still ample opportunity to experience unexploited nature, especially in the area designated as zone I and making up 60% of the park, ranging from the lakes called Harrsjöarna in the highlands and south from there.

The park is located some 20 kilometers (12 miles) west of the community of Särna. Going north on national route 70 from Särna, the park is accessed by turning to road 1056 towards Mörkret and Gördalen after four kilometers (2.5 miles), then going west from Mörkret towards Njupeskär for two kilometers (1.25 miles), where the park entrance is located.

General rules to stick to and things to think about while in the park:

Bears are plentiful in the park. Swedish brown bears are considered among the most peaceful of their kind as shown by the example of "Olle" (or Jon), but large predators should always be treated with respect. Unlike some Swedish parks, like Sarek, Fulufjället is just as suitable both for visitors with plenty of wilderness experience as it is for novice lovers of nature. Young children should not be left unattended in the park, though. Some lichen, such as the brightly green/yellow wolf lichen is deadly poisonous, and outside of the trails, it's easy to get lost in treacherous terrain.

Following is a translation of the conditions governing Fulufjället national park. I am neither a lawyer, nor a translator. This 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 Fulufjället. Other national parks have other conditions specified for them.

The Swedish Environmental Protection Agency's regulations for Fulufjället National Park NFS 2002:21

decided on May 22, 2002.

Supported by 4 § section one of the national park ordinance (1987:938) and after consultation with the County Administrative Board of Dalarna, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency prescribes the following.

A) Limitations of the right to use grounds and waters within the national park

The division into zones is described in appendix 1 to the regulations.

Within the national park it is forbidden to

  1. raise new buildings, masts, bridges, or other facilities
  2. construct new roads or trails
  3. run new cables through the ground or air
  4. stock items other than temporarily for the national park administration's account
  5. dig, blast, excavate, ditch, or dam
  6. use fertilizers or chemical pesticides
  7. spread lime; it is, however, permissible for the County Administrative Board to spread lime in waters within the outflow regions of Fulubågan and Stora Njupån within Zone III as well as spreading lime in Nedre Särnmansjön within Zone I.
  8. introduce plant or animal species foreign to the area
  9. cut down trees and shrubs; it is, however permissible
  10. add fish to lakes and waters
  11. hunt; it is, however, permissible to
    • hunt for elk in zone II and part of zone III and IV according to appendix 2
    • hunt for hare, capercailzie, black grouse, or grouse within areas where elk hunting is permitted according to appendix 2 during a period of transition of ten years following the passing into law of these regulations
  12. conduct military or police training exercises; it is, however, permissible as granted by the County Administrative Board to conduct
  13. reconnoiter for the purpose of mountain rescue for mountain rescue servicemen accompanied by a recruit or other mountain rescue serviceman without notification to the County Administrative Board; furthermore, the excursion shall be ordered by the nearest group supervisor within the mountain rescue services and be announced to the police authorities
  14. conduct alterations, additions, or demolition of buildings without permission from the County Administrative Board
  15. conduct reindeer pasture
  16. use motorized vehicles, helicopters or unleashed dogs when driving stray reindeer without permission from the County Administrative Board.

B) Regarding the right to travel and stay and regarding the order in general within the park.

The division into zones is described in appendix 1 to the regulations.

Within the national park it is forbidden to

  1. fish; it is, however, permissible to fish using handheld tools in the waters within zone III for which fishing licenses are sold
  2. drive a snowmobile; it is, however, permissible to drive a snowmobile at no more than 30 kilometers per hour (18.6 miles per hour) on snow-covered ground on marked trails according to appendix 2
  3. land by aircraft; it is, however, permissible
    • after notification to the County Administrative Board to land by helicopter for the removal of brought-down elks within the area granted for the hunting of elks according to the attached map (appendix 2)
    • with the permission of the County Administrative Board to land by helicopter in specifically designated sites in zone III
  4. fly over the national park at an altitude of less than 2000 feet (610 meters) above ground, except in conjunction with takeoff and landing
  5. climb in mountains; it is, however, permissible to climb on ice during the time from December 1 to March 31
  6. camp within zone IV; it is, however, permissible to camp within zone IV during the time from December 1 to March 31 on sites designated by the County Administrative Board
  7. arrange an open fire within zone IV; it is, however, permissible to arrange an open fire within zone IV within specially arranged fire sites
  8. bring an unleashed dog; holders of a hunting license are, however, allowed to bring an unleashed dog conjunction with hunting or hunting training during hunting season
  9. riding a horse or bicycle outside of existing roads
  10. post a board, sign or other markings in nature
  11. break branches, cut down or otherwise damage living or dead trees and bushes
  12. dig up plants and pick moss, lichen, and mushrooms living on wood
  13. stay in habitat trees or on hillsides with nesting birds of prey, gather insects, or otherwise disturb or harm animal life
  14. use an ice drill powered by a combustion engine
  15. conduct competitions, camping activities and other large or recurring arrangements.

C) General exceptions

Without hindrance by the above limitations according to A) and B), it is permissible to

  1. use motorized vehicles, horses, boats, and aircraft and conduct measures according to determined plan of maintenance for staff of the national park administration
  2. use appropriate motorized vehicles, aircraft or unleashed dogs for an official in matters of healthcare, police, customs or rescue operations; such efforts shall be reported to the County Administrative Board if possible before conduct, otherwise as soon as possible upon completion of the mission
  3. maintain roads where the use of motorized vehicles is permitted, parking lots and roadsides as well as maintaining existing clearings for wires after permission from the County Administrative Board

These regulations will pass into law on August 1, 2002.



Per Wallsten
(The Unit of Administration)

Appendix 1. Fulufjället national park (map of zone divisions)
Appendix 2. Fulufjället national park (snowmobile trails and hunting)

Information synthesized from www.environ.se, www.sarnaskogsmuseum.org.se and www.panparks.org.