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From a sawmill to a stunning destination by Lake Saimaa 

Sahanlahti, one of the oldest sawmills in the Saimaa region, was built around a water-driven sawmill founded in 1765, which has since disappeared. Sawmilling was practised in the Sahanlahti landscape for almost 200 years. 

Today, Sahanlahti is a renowned and traditional tourist resort in a stunning location on the shores of Lake Saimaa in Puumala, less than an hour’s drive from Savonlinna, Mikkeli, and Imatra. This culturally and historically unique sawmill environment and its modern facilities create a wonderful setting for holidays and celebrations. 

Sahanlahti hosts

At Sahanlahti, you will be looked after by the hosts Jaana and Janne Kuivalainen. It is a matter of honour for the host couple to provide you with great and memorable experiences in the beautiful scenery of Lake Saimaa, in the unique milieu of Sahanlahti. 

Local food, heartfelt service, and the history of the area with its interesting stories are close to the heart of hostess Jaana Kuivainen. The job of the host at Sahanlahti is well suited to the social Janne Kuivalainen, who chats with customers while heating the smoke sauna and pushing snow. This easy-going host will be happy to sit down with you at the coffee table. 

This couple has created a warm and cosy atmosphere at Sahanlahti, where guests feel at home. By their own example, they have instilled in their employees the same enthusiasm for delivering memorable experiences to Sahanlahti’s guests through great service. 

Discover the history of Sahanlahti 

The old sawmill community of Sahanlahti was born around a water-driven sawmill established in 1765. The sawmill was known as the Puumala or Miettula sawmill, and in the province, it was called ‘the Puumala works’. It is one of the oldest sawmills in the Saimaa region. 

The last sawmill in the area was dismantled in 1936, which means that sawmilling in the Sahanlahti landscape continued for almost 200 years. A milieu of great cultural and historical value, it still retains the atmosphere of the past. 

The old water-driven sawmill was located in the rapids which cross the area and connect Niskalampi and the waterway above it to Lake Saimaa. The ruins and the old log chute on the rapids are reminders of the sawmill’s existence. 

The first owner of the sawmill was Johan Wilhelm Weinander, the county secretary. Over the centuries, the sawmill changed hands several times, and its last owner was Enso-Gutzeit Ltd, to which the sawmill was transferred in 1910. 

The current reception and restaurant building was once built as the sawmill steward’s house. The sawmill workers and their families lived in cottages built on both sides of the river. There were two families per cottage. In addition to the steward’s house and its outbuildings, what remains of the original settlement is the current museum with its courtyard and the so-called ‘Jallu’s house’ on the Mikkeli side of the rapids. 

Working at the sawmill in the early 1900s 

The spring arrival of the log drivers at Sahanlahti was a big event. The logs were transported to the sawmill along the watercourse above the rapids, from where they were floated down the chute to Lake Saimaa. The gate at the top of the log chute was opened during log floating, allowing the water to carry the logs down with it. 

A boom was placed at the bottom of the chute, and the logs were left inside the boom. The rafts thus formed were transported by Enso-Gutzeit’s tugs to the Kaukopää mills for sawing. The log floating finally came to an end with the advent of the automobile, when timber began to be transported to factories by road. 

In the early 1900s, there were between six and seven workers at the sawmill; two men on the frame saw, two men gathering sawdust, a floater, and a miller. The sawmill ran in two shifts, and the working day lasted ten hours. 

The work was done at the pace of the machine, and it took about four minutes to saw one log. Despite the long working days, the pace was quite leisurely, and the men had time to smoke a pipe while they worked. 

Dangerous playgrounds 

In the sawmill surroundings, children had no lack of playgrounds. The log chute provided an exciting, if dangerous, playground for the children of the sawmill. By raising the gate, a little water was put into the gutter, letting the children slide down the chute sitting on a piece of cardboard. 

Another favourite, equally dangerous play area was located on the old boat dock. Along the long dock, rails had been built, along which goods from ships were transported in trolleys to the shore. The children used to ride a trolley along the rails. Sometimes, the trolleys ended up in the water, and the culprits had to run. 

S/S Wenno 

S/S Wenno (formerly Wetehinen) is an iron-hulled tar steamer. It is the only surviving iron-hulled ship of the large Saimaa tar steamer fleet. The S/S Wenno is almost fully 1930s in its appearance, has an original steam engine, and is on the heritage ship register of the Finnish Heritage Agency. 

The S/S Wenno was built in 1907 to transport timber from Puumala’s Miettula sawmill, i.e., Sahanlahti. Wenno was taken over by Enso-Gutzeit in 1934 after passing through the hands of a few shipowners. In 1966, the ship was abandoned at Laitaatsilta, and in 1972, the municipality of Puumala bought the Wenno in a wrecked, partly stripped condition. 

The Puumala Boat Club restored the vessel to service and has maintained it in good working order with the help of volunteers and the municipality of Puumala. 

S/S Wenno operates charter cruises during the summer to keep the ship in working order and the steamship culture alive in Puumala. 

Elsa Heporauta (1883–1960) 

The author Elsa Heporauta was born as the daughter of the sawmill steward Johan Koponen. Elsa, known as the founder of the Kalevala Women’s Association and the Kalevala jewellery brand, spent her childhood at Sahanlahti. Her wedding was also celebrated there. A multifaceted cultural influencer who has recounted her childhood memories in books under the name Ursula Keivaara, she was a generous and kind-hearted helper of those close to her.