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Established: 1991
Size:139,663 ha (1,396 km2)
Buffer Zone: None

Contact information:
Elena Flegontovna, Director
Russia 163061
Arkhangelsk, ul. Vyucheiskogo, 18 Shatkovskaya

Tel: (7-8182) 27-18-67
Email: kenozero@arkhangelsk.ru

A secluded corner of the ancient Russian North and all its traditions has been preserved deep in the taiga forests of Arkhangelsk Province – far from the destructive forces of wars, revolutions, cities, and roads.  Here, forested hills line the sinuous shore of the enormous Lake Kenozero, broken only by the occasional pastoral village lolling along its shore.  To the south, the oval of Lake Lekshmozero interrupts dense stands of spruce, pine, and deciduous trees growing on knolls throughout in the park.  Rounded silhouettes of sacred groves with stands of ancient trees dot the shores of the two lakes.  Quaint wooden chapels with dome-shaped ceilings painted with images of saints keep vigil on hillsides and in valleys, having been restored to their original beauty.  Today, all these treasures are protected in Kenozersky National Park, making the reserve a haven for nature lovers and history enthusiasts alike – offering boating, hiking, cultural and historical attractions, and comfortable accommodations. 

Photo © 2004 Igor Shpilenok

Kenozersky National Park Images
Kenozersky National Park Facts
Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal

Articles featuring this nature reserve in Russian Conservation News journal:

Kenozersky National Park Images
Click on each photo to see a large version.

© 2004 Igor Shpilenok

Zikhnovo Chapel stands on a rise at the southern tip of Lake Kenozero.

© 2004 Igor Shpilenok

The 18th-century St. Nikola Chapel watches over frozen Lake Kenozero.

© 2004
Igor Shpilenok

The luscious green leaves of syndow gather a drink after the rain.

© 2004
Igor Shpilenok

The sinuous shores of Lake Kenozero open to many channels and inlets.

Igor Shpilenok

A haystack stands by Lake Lekshmozero near a traditional village.


© 2004 Ivetta Tatarinkova

Guzhevo village on Lake Kenozero in May.

© 2004
Igor Shpilenok

Wooden carvings such as this sun are common architectural elements.

© 2004
Igor Shpilenok

Glazovo is one of the most picturesque villages on Kenozero.


Kenozersky National Park Facts:
AnimalsVegetationGeographical FeaturesHistorical and Cultural MonumentsVisitors Guide'References


There are 322 species of terrestrial vertebrates in Kenozersky National Park, including 50 kinds of mammals and 263 birds.  Fourteen species of predators inhabit the park.  European lynx (Felix lynx) and occasionally pine marten (Martes martes) hunt mountain hare (Lepus timidis), which are particularly numerous around Kenozero and Lekshmozero lakes.  Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) are quite common, often occupying old badger (Meles meles) dens.   Raccoon dogs (Nyctereutes procyonoides), introduced here from the Russian Far East in the 1930s, are now widespread, particularly in floodplains and second growth forests.  The introduced species has had a devastating impact on birds that build their nests on the ground or in shallow water, particularly grouse and ducks.  Numbers of gray wolves (Canus lupis) in the park fluctuate as a result of spring and fall migrations of moose (Alces alces), but the clearing of forests for farmlands and livestock has allowed the wolf to proliferate here over the past half century.  Wolverines (Gulo gulo) also migrate in and out of the park, following the moose herds and wolf packs; tracks of the animals are noted in the central parts of the park each spring.  The brown bear (Ursus arctos) is one of the more constant residents of the park, feeding primarily on plants and berries, but also hunting moose and wild boar (Sus scrofa) after emerging from winter hibernation.  Among the smaller predators, ermine (Mustela erminea) and weasel (M. nivalis) are found in most forest types, where they hunt small rodents. 

Boreal field voles (Clethrionomys glareolus), found in mixed forests and floodplains, are the most numerous of the small rodents, along with northern birch mouse (Sicista betulina).  Red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris) are common in coniferous forests where their numbers fluctuate depending on the abundance of pine and spruce nuts.  Flying squirrels (Pteromys volans), though not numerous, are found in river valleys where they are particularly active at night.  The Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus) is relatively rare, occupying the western edge of its range.  Deciduous and steppe species such as the harvest mouse (Micromys minutus) and common field vole (Microtus arvalis) are also found here.  A number of shrews inhabit the park (Sorex caecutiens, S. aranues, S. minutissimus), generally preferring mature forests with berries in the groundcover.  Although the European beaver (Castor fiber) disappeared from the region in the 1960s due to overhunting, the resilient creature has started to make a comeback in the park’s rivers.  Muskrats (Ondatra zibethica) inhabit most reservoirs, while European water voles (Arvicola terrestris) inhabit small rivers and marshy ponds. 

The five species of bats found in the park are: pond bat (Myotis dasycnemei), whiskered bat (M. mystacinus), brown bat (Plecotus auritus), red frosted bat (Vespertilio murinus), and the more common northern bat (Eptesicus nilssoni), which prefers forest clearings and areas along lake shores.

Four species of reptiles are found in the park.  The viviparous lizard (Lacerta vivipara) is the most numerous, preferring open areas with plenty of moisture and dense vegetation.  Grass snakes (Natrix natrix) are also plentiful.  European viper (Vipera berus) inhabits rocky areas with high grasses or shrubs.  The blind worm (Anguis fragilis) resembles a silvery snake, but is actually a legless lizard.  Of the five species of amphibians in the park, two are tritons (Triturus cristatus, T. vulgaris), inhabiting deciduous forests and spruce stands near creeks.  Common toads (Bufo bufo) are most prevalent in the floodplains of rivers and creek, where they lay eggs in warm bodies of water in mid-May.  But the most common of the amphibians is the grass frog (Rana temporaria), which begin mass reproduction in early May.  Moor frogs (R. terrestris) are less common, inhabiting the edges of deciduous forests and sphagnum bogs.

The most numerous birds in the park, typically found in forest and shrub habitats, are chaffinch (Fingilla coelbs), greenish warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus), tree pipit (Anthus trivialis), European robin (Erithacus rubecula), redwing (Turdus iliacus), fieldfare (T. pilaris), song thrush (T. philomelos), garden warbler (Sylvia borin), goldcrest (Regulus regulus), spotted flycatcher (Muscicapa striata), willow tit (Parus montanus), siskin (Spinus spinus), bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), crossbill (Loxia curvirostra), great spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major), and others.  The grouse family is represented by capercaillie (Tetrao urogallus), black grouse (Lyrurus tetrix), and hazel hen (Tetrastes bonasia).  Waterfowl and other birds typical for wetland areas include black-throated diver (Gavia arctica), mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), teal (A. crecca), wigeon (A. penelope), tufted duck (Aythya fuligula), and goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).  While birds are more numerous on Lake Kenozero, species that prefer to build nests in shallow waters and among reeds find Lake Leshmozero more suitable.  These include the great crested grebe (Podiceps cristatus), little gull (Larus minutus), black-headed gull (L. ridibundus), and common tern (Sterna hirundo).  Open hayfields and abandoned farmlands provide habitat for skylarks (Alauda arvensis), yellow wagtails (Motacilla flava), whinchats (Saxicola rubetra), lapwings (Vanellus vanellus), and corncrakes (Crex crex).  Black kite (Milvus korschun) and osprey (Pandion haliaetus) are often observed in the southern part of the park.  Northern hobby (Falco subbuteo) is more likely to be seen in the northern part of the reserve.  Common kestrel (F. tinnunculus), northern harrier (Circus cyaneus), and marsh harrier (C. aeruginosus) fly low across fields hunting for small rodents.  White-tailed eagles (Haliaeetus albicilla) hunt for fish in the larger lakes. 

Twenty-eight species of fish inhabit the numerous lakes and rivers of the park, including whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus), pike (Esox lucius), bream (Abramis brama), burbot (Lota lota), perch (Perca fluviatilis), roach (Rutilus rutilus), ide (Leuciscus idus), and two species of lamprey (Lethenteron kessleri, L. japonica).  Cisco (Coregonus albula) is a local delicatessen which fishermen salt for the winter in wooden barrels. 


The flora in Kenozersky National Park consists largely of species representative of the lower-middle taiga zone.  Spruce forests (Picea abies, P. abovata) with berry shrubs and mosses in the understory prevail where moisture levels are higher, while Scotch pine stands (Pinus silvestris) with lichens occupy drier areas.  Bogs and sphagnum swamps occupy lowlands and depressions.  Because of the diversity of the terrain – from lowlands with high levels of moisture to dry sandy ridges – the number of plant species is particularly high for the area.  In all, 534 species of higher plants are found in the park, representing 77 genera.  Fifty-three species are listed as rare and endangered. 

Boreal plant species are widespread in the park, including bilberry (Vaccinium myrtillus), twinflower (Linnaea borealis), club-moss (Licopodium annotium), horse-tail (Equisetum sylvatica), and wood sorrel (Oxalis ocetosella).  European species include wild chervil (Anthriscus sylvestris), hawk’s beard (Crepis paludosa), tway blade (Listeria cordata), butterfly orchid (Platantera bifolia), alder buckthorn (Frangula alnus), and speedwell (Veronica officinalis).  European mountain-taiga species include shield fern (Dryopteris filix-mas), speckled alder (Alnus incana), and European trollflower (Trollius europaeus).  Monkshod (Aconitum septentrionale) and baneberry (Actaea erythrocarpa) grow in spruce forests and forest bogs, while arrowhead (Sagittaria sagittifolia) and spatterdock (Nimphaea tetragona) are common in wetland areas.  Arctic species such as Arctic birch (Betula nana), cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus), saxifrage (Saxifraga hirculus), and starwort (Stellaria crassifolia) are also found in the park.  Lily-of-the-valley (Convallaria majalis), spring vetchling (Orobus vernus), garden balsam (Impatiens noli-tangere), and other plants grow together in the valleys of forest streams, in overgrown meadows, and in the understory of second growth forests.         

The plant composition of bogs is relatively diverse with over 54 species of vascular plants and 24 species of mosses.  Scotch pine bogs usually have leather-leaf (Chamaedaphne calyculata) marsh tea (Ledum palustre), bog whortleberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), cranberry (Oxycoccus microcarpus), sheathing cottongrass (Eriophorum vaginatum), and other species in the groundcover.  Sphagnum (Sphagnum spp.) and other mosses (Polytrichum strictum, Aulacomnium palustre, and others) also grow on swamps and bogs.  Lake shores surrounded by marshes are overgrown with backbean (Menianthes trifoliata), marsh cinquefoil (Comarum palustre), reed (Phragmites australis), and other species.  White birch (Betula pubescens), aspen (Populus tremula), and various species of willow (Salix spp.) are found alongside spruce and speckled alder in lowland moors.  Numerous aquatic plant species are found in the various strata of the lakes in the park.

Geographical Features

Kenozersky National Park is situated in northern European Russia, in the Plesetsk and Kargopol districts in southwestern Arkhangelsk Province.  The hilly relief of the region was formed by glaciers.  Valleys strewn with enormous boulders are carved among high moraine ridges.  The park straddles the divide between the Baltic and White seas, with 90 percent of the water from the parks’ wetlands flowing into the latter.  The border of the watersheds is marked by a high, steep ridge on the western side of the park, most clearly seen as a narrow crest near Lake Lekshmozero.

The park has more than 300 lakes, as well as a number of rivers and cascading streams, all part of the catchment areas of the Onega and Vodla rivers.  Lakes, formed by tectonic and glacial processes, make up 14.4 percent of the surface area of the park.  Lake Kenozero, formed by movement of tectonic plates, is the largest of the lakes, covering nearly 100 km2 and having a maximum depth of 90 meters.  The length of its sinuous coastline, with many inlets and prolonged peninsulas, extends over 350 km.  The Kena River, from which the lake gets its name, flows out of the lake.  The oval-shaped Lake Lekshmozero of glacial origin, with its steep sloping shores, is the largest lake in the southern portion of the park, with an area of 54 km2.  Meltwater is the main source of water for the lakes and spring floods last from 50-80 days on average.

The climate of the Kenozerye Region is mild continental.  Winters are cold and long with a substantial accumulation of snow.  A short spring is followed by a moderately warm summer and a rainy autumn.  The Arctic seas influence the climate of the park and winds prevail from the west.  The frost-free period usually lasts 108 days, although in some years it can last as long as 145 days.  Snow blankets the ground beginning in October, lasting until the end of April.  The average temperature in January is -13 degrees Celcius, rising to an average of 20 degrees Celcius in July.  Rain frequently pours from cloud-laden skies, averaging 564-597 mm per year.   

Historical and Cultural Monuments

The richest treasures of Kenozersky National Park are the cultural and historical landscapes that have been preserved here for centuries, isolated from the destructive forces of development, wars, and revolutions.  Centuries-old wooden churches and pastoral landscapes were spared from the monotony of Communist development and oppression. 

Finno-Ugric tribes began to settle what is known as the Kenozerye Region 3-4,000 years b.c.  Archeologists have discovered nearly 40 ancient settlements from the Neolithic Period (late Stone to early Iron Age).  Findings at these sites include worn arrowheads, fragments of ceramic dishware, and stone etchings.  For generations, people lived off the bounty of the surrounding taiga forests and lakes, worshiping the sun and conducting sacred rites under cover of ancient trees.  Centuries later, towering groves of sacred trees still rise above lake shores and surrounding villages in small hummocks on the horizon.  Here banner-draped wooden crosses await passing worshipers, who pray and adorn the branches of towering larch (Larix sibirica) and pine trees with colorful prayer ribbons.  In the 10th to 12th centuries, Novgorod peoples began to move north, ousting, but more often assimilating with, local peoples.  They built their orthodox chapels next to the sacred groves.  In time, pagan rituals and Russian orthodox traditions began to mingle in a single spiritual space. 

Today, people live in harmony with nature, as they have for centuries, preserving the ancient ways, traditions, and culture of their ancestors.  Their wooden houses, often two stories with farm animals living on the ground floor and the families above to conserve heat, are adorned with intricately carved balconies and window shutters.  Small wooden chapels with wooden-shingled cupolas are the central focus of each village.  Within, the dome-shaped ceilings – called “skies” – are adorned by paintings of saints and scenes from the Holy Scriptures, and the walls are hung with colorful embroidered cloths and icons.  The scent of wax and incense fills the air as worshipers pray and sing to mark religious holidays.  The Chapel of the Procession of the Holy Spirit, from the 18th century is hidden away in a valley in the village of Glazovo, while the St. Nikola Chapel of the same period stands proudly on the highest hill overlooking Lake Kenozero in the village of Vershinino.  The tiniest chapel in all of Russia – the 18th century Chapel of the Assumption of The Holy Virgin, off the road from Tyryshkino Village, is so small that worshipers can only enter it standing on their knees.  In all, there are 150 cultural and historical monuments in the park, many of which have been restored thanks to the tireless efforts of the park and its supporters, particularly the Government of Norway and regional state agencies.

Local folklore is another guarded treasure of the Kenozerye Region.  Here, epic poems have been passed down orally from generation to generation for centuries and elderly villagers can still recite them in detail.

Visitors' Guide

The park’s activities are many-faceted, from researching the natural ecosystems of the territory, to protecting the park’s valuable natural resources, to promoting preservation and restoration of cultural heritage and monuments in the region.  The park hosts children’s ecological camps and supports traditional folk crafts and art.  The park is an active participant of a number of programs of the Russian-Norwegian Intergovernmental Commission on Nature Conservation and is an important site for cooperation among countries of the Barents-European Arctic Region.  A Russian-Norwegian carpentry school successfully functions in the village of Ust Pocha with support from the park. 

Kenozersky National Park welcomes visitors from the world over, although the number of tourists is monitored to ensure minimal impacts on the park’s natural and cultural resources.  The park also encourages cooperation with tour agencies from Russian and other countries.  The park’s capable staff organizes family, group, and individual vacations, with accommodations in rustic but comfortable cabins, traditional village houses, or tents.   

The ancient city of Kargopol, just south of the park, can be reached by car from the Nyandoma train station.  Visitors can spend a day exploring the traditional Russian city with its nine white stone churches.  From Kargopol, visitors move on to the village of Morschikhinskaya, the southern “capital” of Kenozersky National Park, flanking Lake Lekshmozero.  Guests can stay in comfortable rooms in the park’s modern visitor’s center.  If you are fond of hiking, the Hizhgora Hill route, which follows the steep divide between the White and Baltic sea basins, provides breathtaking views of scenic lakes and forested hills.  At the end of the trail, the wooden 19th century Church of Alexander Svirskoy stands on top of Hizhgora Hill, the highest rise in the area.

Another more difficult hiking trail takes visitors from the village of Morschikhinskaya to the old Makarevsky Monastery, founded by monks in 1640 on the shore of Lake Khergozero.  A 30-km logging road from the village of Maselga connects the southern part of the park with Lake Kenozero in the north.  The road dips and rises through dark coniferous forests, suddenly emerging in a sunny flowering meadow, where the 17th century St. George Church stands in the shadow of ancient larch trees surrounded by high wooden walls with turrets.  Another 17th century church and nearby graveyard with a chapel enclosed by a wooden wall can be seen on the northern border of the park in the village of Filipovskaya.   The administrative center of the park is located in the village of Vershinino, above which stands the small 18th century wooden St. Nikola Chapel overlooking Lake Kenozero.  In Vershinino, visitors can stop in the park’s elaborate visitor’s center, and stay in rustic but comfortable cabins. 

The park provides a wide variety of services to visitors, from pick up and drop off at the Nyandoma or Plesetsk train stations (easily accessible from Moscow and St. Petersburg), boat excursions to the many islands and peninsulas of the lake, and guided hikes through the woods and to wooden chapels and pastoral villages.  A hot Russian banya (steambath) followed by a dip in the cool lake and a traditional meal will refresh you after a day exploring the park and collecting mushrooms and berries from the surrounding woods.  White nights, when the sun barely dips below the horizon in summer, will lure you to enjoy the surroundings late into the night.  Avid fishermen will find the bounty of the park’s lakes irresistible.  Artists and photographers will produce their finest works in the serene and beautiful surroundings of Kenozersky National Park.


“The Mysteries of Kenozerye.”  (leaflet – Russian and English).

Shatkovskaya, E.F., ed.  “Cultural and Natural Heritage of the Kenozero National Park,” Rügen Druck, Putbus auf Rügen, Germany, 2002 (leaflet – Russian and English).

Shatkovskaya, E.F., S.V. Torkhov, and D.V. Tormosov.  Nature and Culture [sic] Heritage of Kenozero National Park.  PetroPress, Petrozavodsk, 2002 (Russian and English).

Zabelina, N.M, L.S. Isaeva-Petrova, and L.V. Kuleshova.  Zapovedniks and National Parks of Russia.  Logata, Moscow, 1998 (Russian and English).

Written by Laura Williams.



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