Grensehistorie Vannkraft Grenseliv


The Pasvik river was the most important traffic route before the road was built on the Norwegian side and the waterfalls were dammed. People travelled by boat, reindeer and horse right up until the middle of the 20th century. The road through the Pasvik valley was finished in the 1930s.

Bilde 1 av 9

International school route

The children in Pasvik went to school at Strand boarding school. For children living in Upper Pasvik, the journey to school was about 80 kilometres. The pupils spent 6-8 weeks at a time at the boarding school. There was no properly developed road network on the Norwegian side until the end of the 1930s. Before that, people had to travel by river boat, reindeer or horse; many also had to walk. When Finland was our neighbour in the east, the way to school was easier, as the Finns had built the Arctic Ocean Highway. The pupils in Upper Pasvik were transported over the river to Finland. Then they took the bus in Finland to Salmijärvi, after which they had to go down to the river before being transported or taking the ferry to Svanvik on the Norwegian side. Not many children have had their way to school go through another country!

Road building

The building of the road through the Pasvik valley fulfilled several purposes. In the 1930s, the Norwegian government wanted new farms to be established in the border area. The network of roads was poorly developed and the road stopped at Svanvik. On the Finnish side, people were linked to the Continent. The Norwegian authorities were sceptical at times with regard to the close contacts with Finland. A road through the entire valley on the Norwegian side would improve conditions for those wanting to settle in the upper part of the Pasvik valley. Today, it is possible to drive by car all the way to Nyrud in the very south of the valley.

Tram tracks

When there were still waterfalls in the Pasvik river, it was necessary to build a system of tram tracks. These were rails that ran alongside the waterfalls and rapids that were not navigable by boat. This was absolutely essential for transport along the river. People had to get out of their boats and frequently help to haul them along the tracks past waterfalls and rapids.

Transport on the river

The people along the Pasvik river used the river for fish transport. Up until the Soviet Union became our neighbour after World War II, it was common to take a trip to visit neighbours on the other side of the river. Trade went on, people visited one another and had festive occasions together, and some rowed across to propose to their sweethearts.

Ferry and local boats

When Finland was our neighbour in the east, there was a ferry that crossed to Salmijärvi. It transported cars, horses and goods between Norway and Finland. There was also a steamer between Svanvik and Langvannet south of Skogfoss.

Regulated transport

Everyone who travels by boat on the Pasvik river must have it registered with the Border Commissioner in Kirkenes, who awards a sign with a number and the Norwegian flag on it. If you cross the border in the river, you can risk being fined. The border guards keep a close watch. If you are on a fishing trip on the river, the nearest boat may be Russian. But in order to fish, you have to be a Norwegian citizen!


Snow scooters are popular for getting about in winter; there are more than 400 km of marked snow scooter tracks in Sør-Varanger. You can drive on the Pasvik river for many months in the winter, and in some places only a few metres from Russia. Dog sled driving has also become popular among the local people and tourists.

The ferry between Utnes at Svanvik and Salmijärvi in Finland. (Photo lent by Inger Eide. Sør-Varanger Museum Collections)

The ferry between Utnes at Svanvik and Salmijärvi in Finland. (Photo lent by Inger Eide. Sør-Varanger Museum Collections)

Grensevakta patruljerer Pasvikelva. (Foto: Ingar G Henriksen, Sør-Varanger museum)

Border guards patrol the Pasvik river. (Photo: Ingar G Henriksen, Sør-Varanger Museum)

Grensehistorie Vannkraft Grenseliv
Fiske Reindrift Jordbruk Timber! Turliv Ferdsel Gammel og ny tro Kulturelt mangfold Bjørnens rike