The settlement first started by hunters over a thousand years ago led to permanent settlement and agriculture in the river valley, and that led to the forming of villages and eventually to the later industrial era. The hunters travelling on the river settled in the river valley permanently towards the end of the Middle Ages. Goods and people have travelled along the river for centuries. Timber processing industry was started on the shores of the rapids in the 19th century.
Prosperous Jämsä landscapes along the river also charmed many visitors. Hartolan Simo wrote in the newspaper Uusi Suometar in 1876 about his impressions:
”In the beginning of July I visited Jämsä. The natural beauty of its parish centre is beyond compare. There are beautiful houses on either side of the slow-flowing river, and between the houses lovely fields and well-kept meadows. I have not seen rye fields more beautiful anywhere else than in the parish of Jämsä, nor any meadows as they were there. I must say that the parish of Jämsä is moving forward in leaps and bounds on the road of cultural and material prosperity. In the case of the latter, the position of the parish offers most excellent opportunities. Small steam boats travel very far along the river delivering timber to the river's mouth from inland. Furthermore, the larger ships travelling between Jyväskylä and Lahti go several times per week to the Juoksulahti bridge receiving and delivering people and goods at affordable prices.”
The river as a transport route for industry
The industrial era of the Jämsänjoki river began with the mills and sawmills of the 18th century. In addition to the small boats, tugboats and barges with long log lines became part of the river traffic. The barges had a helmsman on deck to steer, so that the whole long log line wouldn't crash into the shore. Fish traps of people living on the riversides were in danger when log lines were pulled. The ship Jämsänkoski captained by the famous J. H. Ingel is said to have pulled the entire church bridge of Jämsä down the river along with the log line.
Passenger ship traffic on the river also picked up. The ships provided variation to everyday lives of people living by the river and brought with them a breath from the great world. Children would run to the shore and wave to the ships. The children were delighted if the ship's captain waved back or blew the boat whistle.
Many workers of the Jämsänkoski mill commuted to work by boat from as far as the river's mouth. The workers added to their dinner by drawing longlines in the river. The fish was eaten by the workers themselves or sold at the factory to other workers.
The river now
By the 1970s the river was almost dead, due to the factory's waste water that had been let into the river for decades. The river began to revive during the 1980s and 90s, when the effluent management began to work properly. Once again you can see fishermen on the river, and the boats have also returned. The centre of Jämsä has gained some additional colour from the old tugboats that were turned into pleasure boats.
This section contains the old and current boats of the river valley through the links on the right.
Text for Jämsänjoki river -article and aerial photo: Juhani Heikka
Source: Pertti Gylldén's presentation on a river cruise on the boat Tuulikki on 6.5.2003 and 24.7.2004
Other text in the ship section: Juho Koskinen
The archives of Hannu Koskinen and Matti Heinonen
Isoisän laivat; Raimo A. Wirrankoski
Pictures: The collections of Hannu Koskinen and Matti Heinonen, collection of the City of Jämsä, collection of UPM-Kymmene Oyj.