Padjelanta national park
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Designated by the government in 1962, Padjelanta national park is one of the nation's most northerly national parks. It is adjacent to the parks of Stora Sjöfallet to the northeast and Sarek to the east, and extends to Sweden's border with Norway to the west.
In terms of area, at 1,984 square kilometers (766 square miles or half the size of the state of Rhode Island), Padjelanta is one of the largest national parks in Europe and second to none in the country. The Padjelanta-Sarek-Stora Sjöfallet cluster of national parks have a total area of 5,232 square kilometers (2,020 square miles).
Relatively accessible given its alpine location mostly above the tree line, the park displays a variety of rolling plateaus, the characteristic, rounded peaks of the ancient Scandinavian mountain range sanded down by time and the inland ice, and expansive lakes. 16 percent of the park is water. Birch forest, bog, and glacier areas including the large Ålmåijekna glacier in the southwest each make up less than one percent of the park's total area, and the rest is bare mountain.
Padjelanta is Sami for "the higher land", and most of the park's plateau is at an altitude of about 800-900 meters (2,600-3,000 ft) above sea level. The Kutjaure lake in the north is the lowest point at a modest 540 meters (1770 ft) above sea level.
The two largest lakes, Vastenjaure and Virihaure, are unusually expansive for the region. Interconnected, they are both sources of the river Stora Luleälven, which runs all the way to the Baltic east coast. Around the Virihaure, the southern of the two lakes, are some of the park's small and rare areas of downy birch forest, which are home to some of the smaller birds of the park.
Chains of mountains surround the park to the west, east, and south. A few peaks stand out in the landscape, mainly in the southeastern part of the park. Jeknaffo in the south at 1,836 meters (6024 ft) above sea level is the highest, complemented by Kierkevare and Alatjåkkå.
The bedrock is easily decomposed, lime-rich slate and sandstone and, in some mountainous areas in the west, ancient volcanic serpentinite, which is basic and rich on heavy metals. In the northwest are smooth terraces in multiple levels reminiscing the large delta of a lake formed by the melting inland ice. Near Staluluokta in the park's south is tundra broken up by fertile soil with dwarf birch in polygonal patterns. These patterns are formed as cracks in the bedrock caused by extreme cold become filled with soil after the ice wedges melt.
The region experiences a high degree of precipitation, between 1,800 and 2,000 millimeters (71-79 inches) per year, and combined with the lime-rich soil yields a remarkably rich flora given the altitude and latitude with over 400 species identified, many of which are not found in this climate elsewhere, and many of which have spread from Norway following the ice age before more ecologically competitive plants from the south took over as in the country's east. The serpentinite also causes some of the flora to appear in variety of a smaller size than usual.
Some of the plentiful plant species are Lapland rosebay, alpine whitlowgrass, arctic bellflower, and silene wahlbergella chowdhuri. The herbs gentianella aurea and arenaria humifus are not found elsewhere in the Swedish mountains; the appearance of dwarf mountain cinquefoil is the only one in Europe.
The heaths are home to the Eurasian golden plover, meadow pipit, and northern wheatear; the wetlands to common teal and greater scaup. The rare lesser white-fronted goose nests here occasionally. When there are plenty of rodents such as ermine and mountain hare to prey on, golden eagle, rough-legged hawk, long-tailed jaeger, gyrfalcon, and even the occasional snowy owl hunting for Norway lemmings can be spotted. The best time for birdwatching is around the later half of June when the snow has melted. Fox and arctic fox are permanent residents of the park, and wolverines also live here.
The park is part of Laponia, designated as a world heritage by UNESCO in 1996. The indigenous Sami culture has been around for ages, as seen by remains of ancient hearths, places of sacrifice, and lots where the Sami tent-like cots once stood as well as other signs of hunting, reindeer-keeping, worship and traditional everyday life. This protected and sacred cultural heritage lives on today, as 175 people from several Sami communities manage some 18,000 reindeer for pasture in the park half the year around summer. Visitors must take care not to disturb the calving, tagging, grazing, and driving, and slaughtering of reindeer and to respect the privacy of the population's cabins and cots, some of which is located near the park trails.
The park is accessible only by trail and boat and in the summer by helicopter to the main facilities at Staluluokta by the Virihaure lake from Ritsem in the north or Kvikkjokk in the southeast, which are also the endpoints of the Padjelantaleden trail. Kvikkjokk, accessible by bus from Jokkmokk or by train to Murjek and then by bus via Jokkmokk, has several options for accommodation, as does Ritsem in the bordering national park of Stora sjöfallet, which is accessible by bus from Gällivare. Buying groceries for the journey may prove difficult, but should be easier during the summer.
The Padjelantaleden trail is relatively accessible and recommended even for novice mountain-hikers in summer. Staluluokta is an equal distance, 80 kilometers, from Ritsem and Kvikkjokk, and cabins line the trail every 10 to 20 kilometers. From Ritsem, a boat crosses Akkajaure to Änonjalme and Vaisaluokta, where the trail starts. Getting to the park takes between one and three days, and visitors walking the entire trail should plan to take at least ten days to complete it. The trail is not marked for use during the winter, and skiing along it is associated with some risks.
The thirteen cabin locations are equipped with basic kitchen utilities and other necessary facilities, and housekeeping duties are the responsibility of visitors, who should also bring their own bedding or sleeping bags. For a small fee, the general facilities of the cabins are also available to visitors not sleeping in them. There are between 18 and 40 beds in multiple cabins available at each location. All locations are available during the winter, but with reduced capacity and attendance.
Some cabins have cot chapels nearby, and Staloluokta has a sauna. Basic food supplies are available at Staloluokta, Såmmarlappa, and Tarrekaise. For peril or pleasure, there is no cell phone coverage in the park, but emergency phones with a direct line to local police are available at all of the park's cabins.
Fishing with a permit, available from tourist agencies and other places at the trail endpoints for between SEK 50 and 350, is allowed within one kilometer from the trail with some exceptions, but no fish may be brought out of the park. Youth under 16 may fish without a permit but are also subject to all other restrictions.
Following is a translation of the conditions governing Padjelanta 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 Padjelanta. Other national parks have other conditions specified for them.
Regulations for Padjelanta National Park
Extracts from Proclamation SNFS 1987:10
Within the national park it is forbidden to:
- establish facilities for storing supplies and materials, including rubbish
- run electrical or other lines in the ground or through the air
- construct paths or roads
- construct or enlarge buildings or other facilities
- conduct military exercises
- conduct scientific studies
- conduct commercial activities
- dig, excavate, fill, bore, chisel, paint, blast or in any other way damage the ground or rocks
- remove minerals or other geological materials
- break off branches of, cut down or in any other way damage dead and living trees, brushwood or shrubs
- gather or dig up plants
- introduce plant or animal species
- gather or trap insects, fish or other animals, or in any other way disturb animal life
- hunt or fish
- operate motor vehicles or motorboats
- land aircraft
- ride horses
- bring dogs into the park
- set up notice boards, posters and the like
- set up orienteering checkpoints or marked trails.
In the event of special circumstances, the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency may declare exceptions to these regulations.
Notwithstanding the prohibitions noted above, it is permitted:
- for personnel authorized by the national park administration to carry out measures specified by an approved management plan
- for officials carrying out duties related to reindeer management, police work or national park administration to use motorboats and snowmobiles, to fly aircraft in valleys and otherwise at altitudes less than 300 metres above ground level, and to land aircraft. The national park administration shall be notified prior to any such use
- for officials carrying out duties related to health care or emergency rescue to use appropriate vehicles where necessary, to fly aircraft in valleys and otherwise at altitudes less than 300 metres above ground level, and to land aircraft. If possible, the national park administration shall be notified prior to any such use; otherwise, notification shall be made as soon as possible following completion of each task
- for members of the Sirkas, Jåkkåkaska|Jåkkåkaska], Tuorpon, Luokta-Mavas, Serri and Udtja Saami villages to use motorboats and snowmobiles, to fly aircraft in valleys and otherwise at altitudes less than 300 metres above ground level, and to land aircraft in connection with reindeer management, fishing for household needs and commercial fishing
- for members of the Sirkas, Jåkkåkaska and Tuorpon Saami villages to hunt elk (moose), sell traditional camp bread, fish and the like
- to gather berries and mushrooms
- to gather dry twigs and branches for making fires or constructing shelters
- to bring leashed dogs into the national park during the period from 1 January–30 April
- upon purchase of a licence, to fish waters open for recreational fishing.
Proclamation SNFS (1987:10) concerning regulations for Padjelanta National Park
Based on § 4 of the National Park Ordinance (1987:938), the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency proclaims the [above] regulations for Padjelanta National Park in accordance with the second paragraph of § 5 of the Nature Conservation Act (1964:822).
Proclamation 1987:10. This proclamation shall come into effect on 1 January 1988.
Information synthesized from www.fjallen.nu, www.naturvardsverket.se, and www.bd.lst.se. 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.