Sometime around the end of March or early April, the spring thaw brings massive flooding to Soomaa National Park. The park's four rivers overflow their banks, submerging the surrounding meadows and forests. The landscape is transformed into a giant, shallow lake before the water soaks back into the ground and the rivers return to their original routes.
Rivers cannot cope with the melting snow causing a spectacular annual flood rending up to 17,500 hectares of roads, lower forests, and meadows only navigable by water. The maximum change in water levels has been measured at 5.5 meters, and the last extensive flooding occurred in the spring of 2011. While the level changes every year, the floods are so reliable they've been marked as a "fifth" season.
Photo by: Hillary Millán
Photo by: Mart Veltmann, MyNatureEstonia
Photo by: Siim Verner Teder, Visit Viljandi
Visiting Soomaa National Park during the fifth season is an adventure that is both surprisingly easy and incredibly challenging.
It's easy because it's possible to make the trip in a day from Tallinn if you have a car to get to the park. You can drive down, rent a canoe for two hours and drive back to Tallinn. However, it's challenging because you have to be flexible. There is no way to know exactly when the waters will be highest more than a week or two in advance. Plus, spring weather in Estonia is notoriously fickle. You may have a sunny day or snow and freezing temperatures. You may have both on the same day! Luckily, the park is beautiful in any weather, but you must be prepared with the proper clothing.
Photo by: Aivar Ruukel
Photo by: Caspar Aru, Visit Viljandi
If you visit Soomaa National Park during the fifth season, consider making your trip as sustainable as possible. Here are a few suggestions.
The effects of the spring thaw can be seen all over Estonia. If you can't make it to Soomaa National Park for the fifth season, you still have a few options to experience high water levels closer to Tallinn.
One such natural spectacle is the Tuhala Witch's Well. As the water levels rise in spring, this well is known to overflow at a speed of 100 liters per second. This creates an effect considered one of Europe's most unique natural phenomena. It's not an easy experience to plan for, though, as it can last anywhere from one day to three weeks — it all depends on Mother Nature!
Winter waterfalls are known for their stunning ice formations, but springtime is one of the best times of the year to visit Estonian waterfalls. The spring thaw means the water tumbling over rocks and plunging over the fall increases, making a visit more impressive.
Our site is also available in Chinese and you will be redirected to Visit Estonia Chinese website visitestonia.cn