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Saimaa

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Saimaa (Saimen in Swedish) is a lake in Southeastern Finland. At 1,147 square km (443 square miles), it is the largest lake in Finland, and the fifth largest in Europe.

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The river Vuoksi flows from Saimaa to Lake Ladoga. The Saimaa Canal from Lappeenranta to Vyborg binds Saimaa to the Gulf of Finland. Other canals bind 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, but also tourists use the waterways.

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One of the two fresh water seal species, the Ringed Seal lives in Saimaa. The Saimaa Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida saimensis, saimaannorppa in Finnish) is a subspecies of Ringed Seal (Phoca hispida) . They are among the most endangered seals in the world, having a total population of only about 270 individuals. The only existing population of these seals is found in Lake Saimaa, Finland (hence the name).

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Take a cruise from Lappeenranta to the Saimaa, Saimaa canal or Vyborg, Russia, through the canal! This canal was build to connect the Saimaa to the Baltic Sea at the dawn of industrialisation. The canal was modernized in the 1960's. Finland pays rent for the Russian parts of the canal. The current hire contract expires on 2013, and Finland is currently trying to start negotiating extension to the contract. The canal itself connects to the Bay of Finland, on Russian territory, close to Vyborg (Finn.Viipuri). The canal is mostly used by cargo ships, but there are also passenger boats operating from Lappeenranta to Vyborg. It is also used by private boats from Finland and abroad.

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