Lake Saimaa, Finland

Lake Locations:

Finland - Lakeland -

Also known as:  Saimaa Lake, Saimaa Lake District, Saimaa

Lake Saimaa, in Finland’s Lakeland Region, is a lake you could spend a lifetime exploring! Nearly 1700 square miles of water and over 13,500 islands make the Saimaa Lake District one of Finland’s most striking water bodies. Created by the last receding glacier, the inter-connected lake basins cover much of the southeastern Finland landscape, nearly to the border with Russia. Some of the named lakes considered a part of Saimaa are Lakes Suur-Saimaa, Pihlajavesi, Haukivesi, Puruvesi, Orivesi and Pyhaselka. The entire Saimaa Lake basin contains many other lake systems, most of them connected by artificial canal to Saimaa. The most important canal on Lake Saimaa, the Saimaa Canal, carries boats south into Russia to the Bay of Vyborg on the Baltic Sea.

Finland is a land of water, with the Baltic Sea encompassing nearly the entire western side of the country. A full 10% of Finland’s actual land mass is water. The country’s 188,000 inland lakes are an integral part of Finland’s culture. Many Finnish families own a summer cottage somewhere among the islands of Saimaa, a joy that is becoming more popular with tourists from around the world. All types of water sports are engaged in at Saimaa, from swimming off sun-warmed beaches to water skiing, wakeboarding, power boating, tubing, canoeing and kayaking. Sailing is a favorite way to enjoy the endless reaches of Lake Saimaa; the harbor at Lappeenranta bustles with activity throughout the summer season. A system of cruise ships plying the waters is a popular way for non-sailors to enjoy the wonders of Lake Saimaa: both small day-cruise ships and nearly 100-year-old steamers offer trips ranging from hours to several days. Cruises can be arranged from Nurmes at the northern end of Lake Pielinen, Savonlinna, Kuopio, Lahti, Heinola, Tampere and, of course, Lappeenranta. One cruise route, called the Czar’s Route, travels down the Saimaa Canal and into the Baltic Sea and along the coast to Helsinki.

Summer cottages are available on Lake Saimaa’s many islands and most of the 120 lakes in the district. Many are available to the fishermen who come to pursue some of the many sport fish in the waterway. Anglers here seek pike, perch, zander, landlocked salmon, brown trout, whitefish, bream, roach, ide, burbot, grayling and arctic char. Finland is famous especially for huge pike, the largest caught in the country exceeded 44 pounds. The landlocked Saimaa salmon still lives in the lake, a relic of the Ice Age, and is maintained by a management and restocking program.

Many cycling and hiking trails exist around the Saimaa district with holiday-makers enjoying treks from a rental house or farm holiday in remote regions. The narrow passages between multiple islands are ideally suited for exploring by canoe or kayak. The area is rich in wildlife, with the perfect photographic scene nearly always within focus. Two national parks provide the perfect spots to view birds and wildlife. Linnansaari National Park offers the opportunity to view the extremely rare Saimaa Ringed Seal, elk and osprey. Kolovesi National Park features prehistoric rock paintings on the cliffs rising from the lake. Both are located in the eastern part of Lake Saimaa.

Winter doesn’t end activities at Lake Saimaa. Ice fishing, ice skating, cross-country skiing, dog sledding and snowmobiling all find a home on the huge lake. Many holiday houses include the traditional sauna, where the brave traditionalist may roll in the snow after a time in the hot steam. The larger towns on Lake Saimaa also plan winter festivals and activities to delight the visitor and relieve the boredom of the long winter nights.

The city of Mikkeli features year-round sporting events such as the Marski Cup Ice Hockey Tournament, Finnish Rally Events, the Swamp Volley World Championships and the St. Michel Trotting Races. Mikkeli also offers opera, jazz and rock concerts, theater and dance, including the Savcor Ballet. Children especially love the Hulivili Carnival and Urpola Nature Centre. Olavinlinna castle is Savonlinna’s most significant tourist sight. In summer, the castle provides the main stage for the operas of the Savonlinna Opera festival.

Lappeenranta, with about 60,000 inhabitants, is both a commercial and educational center and a spa town/hub of lakeside tourism. Founded in 1649 by Queen Christina of Sweden, the town is situated on the southernmost edge of Lake Saimaa and covers a large area stretching from Lake Saimaa to the Russian border. Considered the gateway to Lake Saimaa, Lappeenranta combines tradition with the new in delightful ways. Cavalrymen ride through the streets dressed in red trousers and elaborately embroidered jackets. The Fortress mixes history and museums with cafes and craftsmen’s shops. The city offers a spa, swimming beach, many fine restaurants and specialty shops. To the east of the town is Lappeenranta Harbor, Finland’s largest inland port. From here, commercial ships and pleasure boats take passage through the locks on their way south to the Bay of Vyborg. First opened in 1856, the canal contains a series of eight locks on the 37-mile route that lower the water level 248 ft to sea level. The locks are controlled at either the Saimaa Canal Remote-Control Centre at the Malkia Lock or the operating center of the Brusnitchnoe Lock – an international effort between Finland and Russia. Sailboats using the canal must have auxiliary motor power. Complete rules can be obtained at Lappeenranta Harbor.

The long winter nights pale beside the equally long sunny days, the green of the fields, woods and pasture and the blues of the Saimaa Lake District. Vacation rentals are plentiful and varied. Hotel and resort accommodations are matched by guest houses, holiday apartments, summer cottages and chalets. The varied holiday rentals accommodate the wide variety of water-focused activities and destinations featuring nature in all its glory. Real estate may still be found on the lakefront and islands of Lake Saimaa – a bit of this water wonderland to call your own. Plan your first visit today; it will be the first of many more to come.

Things to do at Lake Saimaa

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Ice Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Wakeboarding
  • Tubing
  • Hiking
  • Ice Skating
  • Biking
  • Cross-Country Skiing
  • Snowmobiling
  • Dog Sledding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • National Park
  • Museum

Fish species found at Lake Saimaa

  • Brown Trout
  • Burbot
  • Char
  • Grayling
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Roach
  • Salmon
  • Trout
  • Whitefish
  • Zander

Lake Saimaa Photo Gallery

Lake Saimaa Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: Saimaa Canal Remote-Control Centre

Surface Area: 1,082,240 acres

Shoreline Length: 8,500 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 228 feet

Average Depth: 33 feet

Maximum Depth: 279 feet

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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