Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve

Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve (Estonian: Põhja-Kõrvemaa looduskaitseala) is a protected area in Harju County, Northern Estonia, some 50 km east of Tallinn. With an area of 130.9 km2, it is the third largest nature reserve in Estonia. Dominated by forests and bogs, it aims to protect rare and endangered species, their habitats, and valuable natural landscapes.[1]

Põhja-Kõrvemaa (meaning North Kõrvemaa) occupies the northern part of Kõrvemaa, which itself forms the northern part of Transitional Estonia, a large forested and sparsely populated area spanning in northeast-southwest direction through Estonia, from Lahemaa through Soomaa to Latvia.[2]

Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve
Kõnnu Suursoo winter
Kõnnu Suursoo bog in winter
Põhja-Kõrvemaa location map
Nearest cityTallinn
Coordinates59°23′N 25°42′E / 59.383°N 25.700°ECoordinates: 59°23′N 25°42′E / 59.383°N 25.700°E
Area130.9 km2 (32,346 acres)


Põhja-Kõrvemaa looduskaitseala. 2
Morning in Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve

Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve was established in the end of 1991, a few months after Estonia regained its independence. Throughout the Soviet Era a large part of the nature reserve's current territory was used by Soviet Army for military training and as such was closed to the public. The proving grounds were established in 1947 and in 1953 expanded to 33 304 ha (333 km2), making it the biggest Soviet military polygon in Estonia.[3][4] Still, the Soviet Army damaged only about 10% of the proving grounds' territory, leaving the rest intact.[5] Due to unsuitability for agriculture (poor and/or badly drained soils) the whole region has always been very sparsely populated – in the beginning of the 1950s the population density was around 1 people per km2[5] – but still a few hundred people were displaced together with the creation of proving ground.

Põhja-Kõrvemaa nature reserve was formed in the western part of the former Aegviidu polygon, which had been hidden behind the official name of Pavlov Forest District. In the 1990s, Estonian Defence Forces were interested to begin reusing some areas of the former polygon now situated on the nature reserve's territory.[4] However, due to strong opposition by local people and conservationists, the idea was given up. In 2001, Estonian Defence Forces central proving ground was established in the eastern part of the former Soviet military polygon.[6] The Valgejõgi River is the natural divide between the current proving ground and the nature reserve.

From 1997 to 2007 the nature reserves official status was landscape protection area. In 2007 it was expanded from 12,890 to 13,086 hectares and official status changed back to nature reserve.[1] Since 2004 it is part of the European Union Natura 2000 network.[1]


Forests around Soodla River
Forests around Soodla River.

The landscape in Põhja-Kõrvemaa took shape in the end of the last Ice Age, when the glacier retreated about 12,000 years ago and is as such a typical glacial landscape. It is characterized by ice marginal formations and glaciolacustrine plains, the latter of which are now mostly covered by extensive bogs and, to a much lesser extent, fens. Forests cover about 40% of the nature reserve's territory and man-made open areas only 10%.[5]

The region is richest in Estonia in ice marginal formations.[2] The most remarkable relief forms of the region are eskers, which form steep-sided ridges of very complex relief that extend to a number of kilometers and are up to 25 m high. Along with eskers there are several kame fields — areas covered with hillocks consisting of sand and gravel. Jussi kame field is the best known in Põhja-Kõrvemaa.

There are more than 30 lakes in Põhja-Kõrvemaa.[3] Most of the lakes are small, situated either in bogs (Kivijärv, Koitjärv, Venejärv and others) or between kames. Jussi Lakes is a group of 6 lakes (spanning from 2 to 20 hectares in area) situated in the eastern part of the Jussi kame field.

In addition to the lakes, the three biggest bogs (Koitjärve, Kõnnu Suursoo and Võhma bogs), which cover about half of the territory, have developed extensive ridges of small bog ponds, which can be counted in hundreds.[5]

Flora and fauna

A number of rare or endangered species can be found in Põhja-Kõrvemaa, which is one of the main reasons behind the area's status as a nature reserve. It is home to large predators such as gray wolf, Eurasian lynx and brown bear.[5] Small populations of European mink endured until the beginning of the 1990s, but are now disappeared, as in most of Estonia.[7] Protected bird species include black stork, golden eagle, capercaillie and common crane. Nineteen species of orchids can be found in Põhja-Kõrvemaa (for example, Goodyera repens and Platanthera bifolia), among other rare plants growing in the area are Pulsatilla patens, Sparganium angustifolium, Isoetes echinospora and Oxytropis sordida (the only place in Estonia where the plant is found).[5]

Carcasse of a moose, May 2010

Carcasse of a moose

Palu-karukellad (Pulsatilla patens) Kõrvemaal

Pulsatilla patens in Kõrvemaa


Sand lizard in Jussi heat


Jussi heath in autumn
A berry or mushroom picker on Jussi heath, an area formerly used for aerial bombardment training.

Põhja-Kõrvemaa is one of the most visited protected areas in Estonia[5] due to the closeness of Tallinn and general good accessibility - in the north the nature reserve is bordered by the Tallinn-Narva highway (E20) and in the west by Jägala-Aegviidu-Käravete secondary road. The nature reserve itself has also a considerable amount of gravel and dirt roads. Aegviidu, which is located less than 5 km southwest from the nature reserve and is the end point of Elron commuter railway line, can be reached in an hour from the center of Tallinn.

There are several hiking trails, the longest being the 36 km long Liiapeksi-Aegviidu trail, which crosses the nature reserve from north to south, and also continues to the north in Lahemaa National Park, which is separated from Põhja-Kõrvemaa by Tallinn-Narva highway. Shorter nature and hiking trails and half a dozen campsites are also available, all managed by the State forest management centre (RMK).[8]

Despite the hiking facilities created in recent years, berry and mushroom picking are still the most popular activities among the visitors.[5]

At summer weekends, up to 700 people visit Põhja-Kõrvemaa daily, most of whom drive from Tallinn.[5]

Panorama near Järvi lakes
View to the east from Järvi Lakes.

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Põhja-Kõrvemaa looduskaitseala kaitse-eeskiri (Charter of Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve)" (in Estonian). Riigi Teataja. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  2. ^ a b "Transitional Estonia". Estonica. Archived from the original on 2008-04-16. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  3. ^ a b "Läbi Põhja-Kõrvemaa metsade" (in Estonian). Eesti Loodus. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  4. ^ a b "Tuhkatriinu Põhja-Kõrvemaalt" (in Estonian). Eesti Loodus. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Reimann, Mart; Palang, Hannes (December 1999). "Competing Interests on a Former Military Training Area: a Case from Estonia". Forest Tourism and Recreation. Cabi Publishing: 41–54. ISBN 978-0-85199-414-7. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  6. ^ "Kaitseväe keskpolügoon" (in Estonian). Estonian Defence Forces. Retrieved 2008-10-23.
  7. ^ (in Estonian) Projekt euroopa naarits Archived 2007-06-10 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Map of North-Estonian recreation area" (PDF). RMK. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-06-10. Retrieved 2008-11-25.
Anton Hansen Tammsaare

Anton Hansen Tammsaare (also known as A. H. Tammsaare; born Anton Hansen 30 January 1878 – 1 March 1940), was an Estonian writer whose pentalogy Truth and Justice (Tõde ja õigus; 1926–1933) is considered one of the major works of Estonian literature and "The Estonian Novel".

Flag of Estonia

The national flag of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti lipp) is a tricolour featuring three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white. The normal size is 105 by 165 centimetres (41 in × 65 in). In Estonian it is colloquially called the "sinimustvalge" (lit. "blue-black-white"), after the colors of the bands.

First adopted on 21 November 1918 after its independence, it was used as a national flag until 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia. After World War II, from 1944 to 1990, the Soviet Estonian flag consisted first of a generic red Soviet flag with the name of the republic, then changed to the red flag with a band of blue water waves near the bottom. The Estonian flag, which was also used by the Estonian government-in-exile, was officially re-adopted 7 August 1990 one year before its official restoration of independence.

Harju County

Harju County (Estonian: Harju maakond), or Harjumaa (German: Harrien or Rugel, Latin: Harria) is one of the fifteen counties of Estonia. It is situated in Northern Estonia, on the southern coast of the Gulf of Finland, and borders Lääne-Viru County to the east, Järva County to the southeast, Rapla County to the south, and Lääne County to the southwest. The capital and largest city of Estonia, Tallinn, is situated in Harju County.


Keskpolügoon or the Central training area is the main military training field of the six areas used by the Estonian Defence Forces. Defense Forces central training area covers 11,951 ha (29,530 acres) and is located in the eastern part of the Kuusalu municipality in Harju County. It borders with three other rural municipalities: Kadrina to the east, Tapa to the south (both in Lääne-Viru County) and Anija Parish of Harju County to the south-west. To the west it borders the Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve.

Kuusalu Parish

Kuusalu Parish (Estonian: Kuusalu vald) is a rural municipality in northern Estonia, the largest in Harju County. After joining with the adjacent Loksa Parish in 2005, the municipality has now a population of 6,863 (as of 1 January 2009) and covers an area of 707.97 km². The population density is 9.7 inhabitants per km².

A significant share of the municipality's territory (between 40% and 60%) is covered by protected areas, as large parts of the Lahemaa National Park and Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve are situated there. The eastern part of the municipality is home to the largest military training area in Estonia, the central training area of Estonian Defence Forces.

The administrative centre of the municipality is Kiiu. There is a total of 3 small boroughs — Kuusalu (1225 inhabitants), Kiiu (893 inhabitants) and Kolga (501 inhabitants) — and 64 villages in Kuusalu Parish: Allika, Andineeme, Aru, Haavakannu, Hara, Hirvli, Ilmastalu, Joaveski, Juminda, Kaberla, Kahala, Kalme, Kasispea, Kemba, Kiiu-Aabla, Kodasoo, Koitjärve, Kolga-Aabla, Kolgaküla, Kolgu, Kõnnu, Kosu, Kotka, Külmaallika, Kupu, Kursi, Kuusalu, Leesi, Liiapeksi, Loksa, Mäepea, Murksi, Mustametsa, Muuksi, Nõmmeveski, Pala, Pärispea, Parksi, Pedaspea, Põhja, Pudisoo, Rehatse, Rummu, Salmistu, Saunja, Sigula, Sõitme, Soorinna, Suru, Suurpea, Tammispea, Tammistu, Tapurla, Tõreska, Tsitre, Turbuneeme, Uuri, Vahastu, Valgejõe, Valkla, Vanaküla, Vihasoo, Viinistu, Virve.

The current mayor (vallavanem) is Urmas Kirtsi.

Nature reserve

A nature reserve (also known as natural reserve, bioreserve, natural/nature preserve, or natural/nature conserve) is a protected area of importance for flora, fauna or features of geological or other special interest, which is reserved and managed for conservation and to provide special opportunities for study or research. Nature reserves may be designated by government institutions in some countries, or by private landowners, such as charities and research institutions, regardless of nationality. Nature reserves fall into different IUCN categories depending on the level of protection afforded by local laws. Normally it is more strictly protected than a nature park.

Pohja (disambiguation)

Pohja is a former municipality of Finland.

It may also refer to

Põhja, a village in northern Estonia

Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve in northern Estonia

Põhja-Tallinn, an administrative district of Tallinn, the capital of Estonia

Antti Pohja (born 1977), Finnish football player

Pohja (myth), also known as Pohjola, place (or person) in finnish myth

Sand lizard

The sand lizard (Lacerta agilis) is a lacertid lizard distributed across most of Europe and eastwards to Mongolia. It does not occur in the Iberian peninsula or European Turkey. Its distribution is often patchy.


Valgejõgi (lit. White River) is a river in Northern Estonia. Its source is in Lake Porkuni in Pandivere (Lääne-Viru County) and it drains into Hara Bay (part of Finnish Gulf) at Loksa (Harju County).


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