The name of the Reisaelva (Reisa river) is derived from the Norse word rísa, meaning to rise. Due to its very large drainage basin, the river is known for the extremely varying water levels which, especially during the annual snow melting, causes high and intensive peak flows. The river is frozen during the winter and is ideal for skiing, while in the summertime you can hike along the riverside path, book a riverboat trip or paddle a canoe.
Nordreisa is called the place of the “meeting of the three tribes”. People of Norwegian, Kven and Sami descent have long utilised the area’s natural resources. The remains of several tar kilns can still be found in the valley, while the rock art at Sieimma is probably 3,800 years old. Further up the valley, you can find remains of Sami árran (fireplaces) and ancient pitfall trapping systems for wild reindeer.
Throughout history, the Reisa river has been an important traffic artery for people travelling between inland and coastal areas or to areas for hunting and fishing up the valley. Many people still travel on the river today, especially for salmon fishing, which is an extremely popular activity during the summertime.
The Ráisduottarháldi Protected Landscape Area borders the national park in the northwest. This area includes the mountain Halti (1,361 m above sea level). Just 2 km further south, and just across the international border, you can find Finland’s highest peak.
The varied landscape in Reisa makes the area ideal for different activities. In the summertime, the valley is easily accessible by hiking along the riverside trail or exploring the river by riverboat or canoe.
The Arctic Trail (Nordkalottruta), which forms part of the European walking route from Sicily to the North Cape (E1), passes through Reisa National Park and the adjacent Ráisdouttarháldi Protected Landscape Area. Several hut and cabins are situated along this trail within the protected areas, which hikers can use. Some of these are open, while others must be booked in advance.
Several companies run riverboat trips on the Reisa river. This is a nice way to experience the national park. It’s possible to take a canoe upriver by riverboat so you can paddle down again. Sightseeing trips to the Mollisfossen waterfall are an attractive option that enable you to experience the most popular attraction in the national park.
When the water level is normal, the Reisa river is safe and easy to paddle. However, paddling can be more challenging after heavy rain and flooding, which causes peak flows in the river. The stretch of the river in the national park, from Nedrefoss to Sieimma, is usually a calm and pleasant canoeing trip.
Freshwater fishing in the mountain lakes in the area is a popular activity year-round. Just remember to buy a fishing licence (intatur.no). The Reisa river is noted for salmon fishing, including the stretch of the river from the national park boundary (Sieimma) to the Imofossen waterfall. It’s possible to catch big salmon too. Every year, salmon weighing more than 20 kg are caught here. The salmon fishing is open to locals and visitors alike, providing you order a fishing licence in advance.
Small game hunting and moose hunting both take place in the national park, and the area by the lake Ráisjavri/Reisavannet is especially popular.
Skiing in the mountains from cabin to cabin is a popular activity in the wintertime. In the Reisa valley, it’s safe to ski on the frozen Reisa river from January to late March. By early April, the ice generally starts to crack, making skiing on the river more challenging.
Owing to the large variation in the bedrock and landscape, the Reisa valley has a rich flora and fauna. The geography and climate mean both eastern and northern species are represented.
Around 385 vascular plant species have been observed in the national park. This number is high in a North Norwegian context and a national basis. Many eastern and northern plant species can be found in the upper reaches of the Reisa valley, several of which are marshland and forest plants, such as cottongrass growing on the palsas, and marsh saxifrage and Arctic bramble found along the river. The northern boundary of several southern species, such as fumewort and apetalous sandwort, are in or near the Reisa valley. The area also houses some of the last stocks of endangered plant species, such as Peel River catchfly and the blunt leaved bog orchid. There is a small number of spruce trees in Jiehtanagorsa, which constitutes the only natural occurrence of Norway spruce in Troms county.
Much of the valley contains good grazing areas for moose. The largest Norwegian predator, the brown bear, is occasionally observed in the national park. Permanent stocks of wolverine and lynx are also found in the area. The harbour seal sometimes follows the Reisa river from the coast and has been observed as far up as the Nedrefoss waterfall.
No less than 122 bird species have been observed in the national park, including ducks, birds of prey, wading birds, owls and passerines. For several of the species, the main habitat is either further south or east, making them rare in Troms county. Most of the species nest in the area, while others use the area for grazing, resting during migration or moulting.
The rock walls along the valley provide are good nesting areas for birds of prey, and common species include the rough-legged buzzard, golden eagle, merlin and common kestrel. If you are lucky, you may also see the gyrfalcon.
The Reisa river is one of the most valuable water courses for salmon, sea trout and Arctic char in Troms county. The selection and density of bottom dwelling species in running water is high. Eastern species such as whitefish, perch and pike are also found in the watercourse.
The landscape in the national park is extremely varied, from a narrow river valley in the north-western corner, to marshlands, plateaus and mountain areas further south. Rock scouring through the last Ice Age has made Reisadalen (the Reisa valley) one of the most dominant valleys in North Troms.
From the Finnmarkvidda mountain plateau near Kautokeino, with vast mountain moors and marshlands, the Reisa river flows through a narrow canyon at Imo down the valley where the landscape flattens out and eventually opens towards the sea. The valley is characterized by waterfalls from tributaries that flow into the Reisa valley. There are high mountains on both sides of the valley. The mountain massif Ráisduottarháldi is situated on the border between Norway and Finland.
There are rock species in Reisa National Park that are more than 2.6 billion years old. You can read the geological history on the rockface along the valley. One of the most interesting landscape phenomena in Reisa National Park is Mollisfossen, Northern Norway’s highest waterfall. Precambrian rocks are visible at Nedrefoss along with eskers from the last Ice Age. The natural cross-section of the landscape at the cleft Avvekløfta enables you to gain an insight into the geological history of the bedrock in the area.
The Norwegian Environment Agency and the County Governor are responsible for conservation work based on the provisions of the Act relating to the management of biological, geological and landscape diversity (The Nature Diversity Act). The National Park Board for Reisa National Park, a local board established in 2011, has taken over the management authority for the national park.
The main objective of establishing protected areas, such as national parks, is to maintain the diversity of habitat types and landscapes in Norway for future generations. These efforts shall also contribute to protecting areas of special value to plants and animals.
The biggest threats to biodiversity in Norway are that habitats of animals and plants are destroyed and divided. National parks and other protected areas safeguard vulnerable and threatened nature types, and protect areas of international, national and regional value.
In total, 17.1 per cent of mainland Norway is now protected. In Norway, we have several types of protection:
National parks are established to protect to take care of large areas of natural habitat. Norway has 46 national parks (39 in the mainland Norway and seven in Svalbard), which jointly represent the biodiversity in the country.
Besides Reisa National Park, the following national parks are situated in Troms county: Ånderdalen National Park, Rohkunborri National Park and Øvre Dividal National Park.
Photo: Magnus Barmoen
The Reisa National Park Board is the management authority of Reisa National Park. It has the task of managing the national park in line with national goals and international commitments. The board consists of representatives from the Sami Parliament, the Municipality of Nordreisa and the Troms County Council. The board has two nature protection officers who manage the day-to-day operations and function as the secretariat of the board.
Reisa National Park must be managed in accordance with certain legislation and rules. All protected areas in Norway have their own protection regulations outlining the rules that apply in that specific protected area. You can find the protection regulations for Reisa National Park here.
If you have any questions about the management of Reisa National Park, please contact the national park manager at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Øvrefossen, Photo: Asgeir Blixgård, Fjelltjenesten
The area within the national park has long been used by people of Norwegian, Sami and Kven origins and visitors to the national park can see extensive of evidence of their use of the natural resources.
The first people in Reisa hunted wild reindeer, and ancient trapping systems are common cultural monuments in the national park. You will find ancient pitfall trapping systems and shooting hides along the traditional reindeer migration routes. Hunting equipment dating back to the Early Metal Age (1800 B.C.) has been discovered in the valley, while the rock art at Sieimma is from the same period. The transition from hunting and trapping of wild reindeer to reindeer husbandry has no doubt been a gradual process that is difficult to date. However, by the 16th century, reindeer husbandry was well established in the area.
Reisadalen (the Reisa valley) is the meeting place of three cultures. The local area has been used by reindeer herders and the local population, which is of Norwegian, Sami and Kven (Finnish) origins. This is reflected by place names and cultural heritage sites. Many of the place names in Reisa originate from the Sami and Kven languages. The settlement in the Reisa valley can be traced well back in history to the Sami hunting/trapping community. Finnish immigrants, known as Kvens, settled further down the valley in the 18th century. It is widely believed that they were responsible for introducing the characteristic riverboat to the valley. The Reisa boat was originally a punting boat but in time has become motorised.
Reindeer husbandry has taken place in the area that is now the national park since time immemorial. The current activity is based on ancient traditions. Areas in and near the national park are used as grazing pastures for reindeer in the spring, summer and autumn.
The reindeer migrate long distances in the space of a year. In wintertime, the reindeer graze in the south of the region or on the Finnmarksvidda mountain plateau, while the summer pastures are in coastal areas in the northwest. About 250 people are involved in reindeer husbandry activity that affects the national park, and in the space of a year more than 20,000 reindeer graze in or migrate through the area. The mountains on the western side of the Reisa valley form part of a reindeer grazing district with 6,000 to 7,000 reindeer. These reindeer calve in the northern parts of the national park before migrating to summer grazing pastures further north. In the late summer/early autumn, the reindeer migrate south again and breed in the same areas as they calved before migrating to their winter pastures on the mountain plateau.
It’s important that other users of Reisa National Park take special care and show consideration to the reindeer during the calving period in the springtime and the breeding period in the autumn. Reindeer react to human activity and often retreat from areas with many people and/or dogs.
The first rule is to be considerate of life around you, including other human beings.
- Feel free to go wherever you want, on foot or on skis. Anything with an engine is basically banned. (See Access rights)
- Stop wherever you want, and camp for the night if you wish. But tidy up afterwards and take your rubbish home.
- You may light a fire, but remember the general ban on fires in woodland between 15 April and 15 September. Show consideration when you gather firewood. Never leave a burning campfire.
- You may pick berries, mushrooms and common plants for your own use. Show consideration for cultural heritage sites, vegetation and animal life. Take extra care in the breeding season.
- Fishing and hunting are allowed, provided it’s in season and have a fishing or hunting licence. Do not use live fish as bait – and never take live fish from one river or lake to another.
- You’re welcome to bring your dog, but between 1 April to 20 August it must be kept on a leash. Some municipalities have their own leash laws.