Coordinates: 61°15′N 028°15′E / 61.250°N 28.250°E / 61.250; 28.250
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Aerial view of frozen Lake Saimaa.
Saimaa is located in Finland
Locationsoutheastern Finland
Coordinates61°15′N 028°15′E / 61.250°N 28.250°E / 61.250; 28.250
Primary outflowsVuoksi River, Saimaa Canal
Basin countriesFinland
Surface area4,279 km2 (1,652 sq mi)[1]
Average depth17 m (56 ft)
Max. depth86 m (282 ft)[1]
Water volume36 km3 (8.6 cu mi)
Shore length114,850 km (9,230 mi)[1]
Surface elevation76 m (249 ft)
SettlementsKuopio 118 012 Joensuu 76 344 Lappeenranta 72 457 Mikkeli 52 248 Savonlinna 38 281 Imatra 24 456 Varkaus 20 393
1 Shore length is not a well-defined measure.

Saimaa (/ˈsmɑː/ SY-mah, Finnish: [ˈsɑi̯mɑː]; Swedish: Saimen) is a lake located in the Finnish Lakeland area in southeastern Finland. At approximately 4,279 square kilometres (1,652 sq mi), it is the largest lake in Finland, and the fourth-largest natural freshwater lake in Europe.

The name Saimaa likely comes from a non-Uralic, non-Indo European substrate language.[2]


Saimaa highlighted on a satellite photo, Gulf of Finland at the bottom, Lake Ladoga on the right. The black line is the Russo-Finnish border.

It was formed by glacial melting at the end of the Ice Age. Major towns on the lakeshore include Lappeenranta, Imatra, Savonlinna, Mikkeli, Varkaus, and Joensuu. About 6000 years ago, ancient Lake Saimaa, estimated to cover nearly 9,000 km2 (3,500 sq mi) at the time, was abruptly discharged through a new outlet. The event created thousands of square kilometres of new residual wetlands.[3] Following this event, the region saw a population maximum in the decades following only to later return to an ecological development towards old boreal conifer forests which saw a decline in population.[citation needed]


The Vuoksi River flows from Saimaa to Lake Ladoga. Most of the lake is spotted with islands, and narrow canals divide the lake in many parts, each having their own names (major basins include Orivesi, Puruvesi, Haukivesi, Yövesi, Pihlajavesi, and Pyhäselkä, among others). Thus, Saimaa exhibits all major types of lake in Finland at different levels of eutrophication.[4]

In places in the Saimaa basin (an area larger than the lake), "there is more shoreline here per unit of area than anywhere else in the world, the total length being nearly 15,000 kilometres (9,300 mi). The number of islands in the region, 14,000, shows what a maze of detail the system has."[5]

Natural resources[edit]

Pusa hispida saimensis, also known as Saimaa ringed seal, in 1956.

An endangered freshwater seal, the Saimaa ringed seal, lives only at Saimaa. Another of the lake's endangered species is the Saimaa salmon.[6]

Due to its rich, easily accessible asbestos deposits, the shores of the lake are the most probable origin of asbestos-ceramic, a type of pottery made between c. 1900 BC – 200 AD.

The areas around Saimaa lake are a very popular location for summer cabins as well as lake cruises.

Saimaa canal[edit]

The Saimaa Canal from Lauritsala (Lappeenranta) to Vyborg connects Saimaa to the Gulf of Finland. Other canals connect Saimaa to smaller lakes in Eastern Finland and form a network of waterways. These waterways are mainly used to transport wood, minerals, metals, pulp and other cargo, though tourists also use the waterways.

Notable people[edit]

  • The Russian writer Maxim Gorky went into exile near the shores of Lake Saimaa for a period of time after his apartment was raided by the Black Hundreds in the aftermath of the Moscow Uprising of 1905. He wrote to his divorced wife Ekaterina, writing "it's beautiful here, like a fairy tale".[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Suur-Saimaa". Järvi-meriwiki (in Finnish). Finnish Environment Institute. 9 March 2021. Retrieved 22 February 2023. [Suur-Saimaan] yhteenlaskettu pinta-ala on 427 946,4 ha ja suurin syvyys 85,81 m. [The total surface area [of Suur-Saimaa] is 427,946.4 hectares and its greatest depth is 85.81 meters.]
  2. ^ "Saimaa". Kotimaisten kielten keskus.
  3. ^ Markku Oinonen et al. (2014) Event reconstruction through Bayesian chronology: Massive mid-Holocene lake-burst triggered large-scale ecological and cultural change; url=
  4. ^ Making of Järven tarina.
  5. ^ Hämäläinen, Arto (November 2001). "Saimaa – Finland's largest lake". Virtual Finland. Archived from the original on 14 February 2008.
  6. ^ McClane, A.J. (April 1973). "Fishing: The Missing Link". Field & Stream. LXXVII (12): 144. Retrieved 20 March 2013.
  7. ^ Figes, Orlando: A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891–1924. The Bodley Head, London (2014). p. 202

External links[edit]