The aspiring Salpausselkä Geopark is situated in the City of Lahti and the surrounding region, in southern Finland, about 100 km northeast of Helsinki, the capital. The area can be reached in less than hour by train from the country’s main airport, Helsinki-Vantaa.

Salpausselkä ice-marginal formations and their feeder eskers are central features in the region. Päijänne National Park, located in the southern part of Finland’s second largest lake, forms an important part of the geopark.

Lahti University of Applied Sciences launched the Salpausselkä Geopark project in 2017, with the goal of applying for UNESCO Global Geopark status. The Geological Survey of Finland and Metsähallitus Natural Heritage Services work as project partners.

Seven municipalities situated along the Salpausselkä formations or around Päijänne National Park, with some 182 500 inhabitants in total, form the area of the aspiring geopark and are the main stakeholders. The project is carried out in cooperation with these municipalities (Asikkala, Heinola, Hollola, Kärkölä, Lahti, Padasjoki and Sysmä) and a wide range of other regional actors.

The ancient bedrock of the area formed 1 900-1 850 million years ago and is covered by a layer of deposits formed during and after the latest ice age. The most significant of these deposits are Salpausselkä ice-marginal formations, the best-known geological features of Finland, which are at their most representative in the Lahti region. In addition to the Salpausselkä formations, their feeder eskers of which some lie in Päijänne National Park, are central features in the proposed geopark area.

The Salpausselkäs formed of sand and gravel deposited at the margin of the continental ice sheet during the deglaciation stage of the last ice age, when the climate got suddenly colder, and the retreat of the continental ice sheet stopped. The cold period, known as Younger Dryas, started about 12 800 years ago and lasted for approximately 1 200 years. Eskers of the aspiring geopark formed on the bottom of the meltwater streams that transported material to the ice sheet margin.

Today the glaciofluvial formations offer stunning views and peaceful walks, but are also vitally important for the wellbeing of the communities: their thick sand and gravel layers absorb most of the annual rainfall feeding the renewable groundwater reserves. There are several natural springs with clear water along the fringes of Salpausselkäs and their feeder eskers.

Salpausselkä formations and sandy eskers of the Salpausselkä Geopark Project area were created by glacial meltwater at the end of the last ice age 12000 – 11000 years ago. Today these geological formations are vitally important for the wellbeing of the communities, as their forest-covered thick sand and gravel layers absorb rainfall and provide the City of Lahti and other municipalities of the region with good quality groundwater.

The most important groundwater recharge areas of Finland in terms of both quality and quantity lie in the ice-marginal formations and eskers. The groundwater recharge areas of the aspiring Salpausselkä Geopark are of great importance at national level. The largest of these, situated in the First Salpausselkä, is among the three largest aquifers of Finland, measured by water yield as well as area.

Groundwater is an important natural resource in the aspiring Geopark for the region’s strong brewery and food industry, for example. All of the high quality, drinkable tap water in the region comes from groundwater. Water consumption in the region is on a sustainable level – only one third of the renewable groundwater is used.

The surface waters of the region are of great importance as well. More than one million people living in the capital area of Finland get their drinking water from Lake Päijänne via the Päijänne water tunnel. The starting point of the world’s second longest tunnel lies close to Pulkkilanharju esker.

In addition to the largest lakes Päijänne and Vesijärvi, there are hundreds of smaller lakes in the Salpausselkä Geopark Project area, offering great surroundings for nature exploring all year round.