Before setting out, it is worth bringing to mind that the best paddling adventures are not created without effort, but are always a result of careful planning and the right choices. The best source of information on the waters, the various routes and their length, and the services and sights of the area is the Seal Trail® Canoe Route Map and Visitors Guide. Anyone planning to go on a paddling trip on their own should thoroughly familiarise him- or herself with the safety and environmental directions in the waterway excursion guide that is provided with the map.
The recommended routes visible on the Seal Trail® map help grasp the distances. However, neither the map nor the waterway excursion guide include actual route descriptions since the general profile of the Seal Trail® is that of a lake canoeing route. There are no signs or markings that should strictly be followed and one may freely stray from the suggested routes, if necessary. While canoeing on large open lakes in particular, it is best to select the route according to the weather – a beginner should devise an excursion plan together with an experienced canoeing company.
The historical water route ranging from Lake Juojärvi to Saimaa via the protected area on Lake Kermajärvi and the national park of Kolovesi forms the essence of the Seal Trail®. The shipping route was completed in the early 1900s when the last canal was built. This water route of canals, canal parks and traditional harbours is known as the Heinävesi water route and it is one of the 27 national landscapes in Finland. In the summer, the traffic on the shipping route is relatively lively and it is recommendable for the canoeist to keep off the shipping route wherever possible. The difference in water level between Saimaa and the headwaters of Lake Juojärvi is 25 metres and there are four rapids navigable for the canoeist (avoidable via the canals). The rapids classifications and difference in water level are the following: Karvio II/1.21 m, Kerma II/2.26 m, Vihonvuonne I/1.1 m and Pilppa I/1.0 m.
The lake routes are negotiable from as early as May, as soon as the ice has cleared, till the end of October. It is possible to plan a trip entirely avoiding portage over isthmuses or past dangerous dams or rapids. On river routes, the circumstances are somewhat different. Jyrkylinjoki, Ulpukkareitti and the small rivers to the east of Lake Kermajärvi can be low on water in mid summer and may thus require several portages. If you are planning a trip on a river, always take the current water conditions into consideration.