There are few roads and technical installations, and mainly in the protected landscapes. But humans have lived here for thousands of years. You can stumble upon old pitfall traps for moose and reindeer, charcoal pits and iron slag from bog iron production. From more recent times, there are mountain farms, hayfields, cattle trails, stone huts and more. All this activity has influenced the biodiversity, with many plants, birds and animals today that are dependent on grazing livestock.
Langsua National Park
Here you can experience pristine nature with few traces of human activity. The main purpose of the national park is to safeguard a large and essentially unspoiled wilderness area. Langsua National Park, an area of 537 km2, consist of various types of mountain ecosystems, a beautiful landscape rich in cultural heritage and geological ice age remnants.
Protected areas adjacent to the national park
Ten other protected areas have been established adjacent to the national park. Dokkfaret LVO, Espedalen LVO, Haldorbu LVO and Storlægeret LVO are protected landscapes, and Hynna NR, Røssjøen NR, Kjølaåne NR, Hersjømyrin NR, Oppsjømyra NR and Skardberga NR are nature reserves. Skardberga NR is a coniferous forest reserve, while the others are wetland reserves.
A number of rather rare and vulnerable plant species can be found in Langsua’s protected areas. Most famous is the bearded bellflower, but also prominent are weak sedge, Hudson Bay sedge, lance-leaf moonwort and leathery grapefern.
The valleys and hillsides in the southern part of Langsua are characterized by coniferous forests. Robust, old pine trees dominate the heart of Dokkfaret, but visitors can find the old giants way up on the birch and pine covered hillsides as well.
You can find large numbers of bearded bellflowers in some of the mountain meadows, pastures and open birch forests. The Langsua area is Norway’s main habitat for bearded bellflowers, and is in fact one of just a few habitats in the world apart from the Alps and the Sudeten and Carpathian Mountains. The reason for this particular distribution is not known.
Reduced grazing and haymaking cause bearded bellflower habitats to overgrow with shrub and forest, thereby affecting its population. The bearded bellflower and the great snipe are Langsua’s two signature species.
Old growth forest
If you are lucky, you might see some rare wolf lichen or have a pleasant encounter with the Siberian jays among the pine trees. The spruce forest also has its old giants, both alive and dead.
The area around Mt. Ormtjernkampen, which constituted the national park from 1968 to 2011, is famous for its ancient natural forest. It provides habitat to a wide range of lichens, fungi, insects and birds, and often show marks from woodpeckers that have been searching for food in trees and ant hills.
Approximately 140 species of birds have been recorded in the area, 125 of which are either confirmed or possible breeding species. Langsua is an important habitat for the great snipe, the broad-billed sandpiper and the hen harrier.
Some of the most common nesting wetland species in this area are Eurasian teals, tufted ducks, black-throated loons, common cranes, common snipes, curlews, whimbrels, common redshanks, common greenshanks and wood sandpipers.
The great snipe is relatively common in Langsua, and we know of many lek sites where mating takes place in early June. Its habitat is fertile and damp land where it can find rich feeding grounds. It seems that there is a correlation between old cattle and horse pastures and the occurrence of this species.
The protected areas of Langsua seem to be among the most important habitats in the country for the great snipe, and it is one of Langsua’s signature species.
The red fox is a very common species, while the Arctic fox has not been observed for many decades. Otter and mink can be found along watercourses.
None of the four large predators of wolf, wolverine, lynx and bear have a permanent presence in the area. Wolverines and lynx can be found in adjacent areas and occasionally roam into the protected areas. Wolves and bears appear far less often since the permanent populations of these species are located much further to the east. Beavers can be found along the lower-lying watercourses just outside the protected areas. Therefore, it might be just a matter of time before they turn up in Langsua, where they had a permanent presence in the past.
Moose is the largest animal in Norway, living mainly on twigs of trees and bushes. Hundreds of moose migrate in and out of the Langsua area every year, and this has formed the basis for the extensive moose trapping that took place centuries ago, using guiding fences and pitfall traps, often constructed in long systematic rows.
The moose migrations of the Langsua area is one of Europe´s most extensive. Some moose migrate from lower-lying areas south of Langsua to our higher areas during late autumn. At the same time other moose migrate out of the Langsua area and north to Murudalen valley. In April/May both groups of moose do the opposite migration.
There are many traces of ancient human activity in Langsua, such as iron production sites, charcoal pits and moose and reindeer trapping sites. The landscape also shows traces of a long history of livestock grazing and hay and wood harvesting.
The Stone Age
Many Stone Age discoveries have been made in the Langsua area. Both along Lake Dokkvatnet in the south and the Vinstra watercourse in the north, there are many old settlements where the bones of fish and animals such as beavers, reindeer and moose have been found. Dating shows that both people and moose lived here as early as 10,000 years ago.
Bog iron production
In the Langsua area the production of bog iron started as early as 200 BC and was very extensive until the 7th century. The iron was mainly exported out of the area, and the precious metal must have been an important commodity to exchange and trade, and as a basis for political power.
Production was only small during the Viking Age, but around the year 1000, iron production once again became a major industry until the 15th century. In Gausdal Vestfjell, bog iron production sites can be found on many a dry ridge in the bogs and marshes.
Moose and reindeer trapping
A century ago, wild reindeers were prevalent in Langsua, and moose still are. Over thousands of years, both moose and reindeer were a very important resource for the people who lived in this area, and large trapping systems consisting of pitfalls were used until just a few centuries ago.
The pits were systematically placed in long lines across the animals’ migratory routes. Guiding fences of some kind would lead the animals into the camouflaged pitfalls traps. Often hunting blinds were erected close to the traps.
Early cattle drives
In previous centuries, cattle drives were common in the Langsua area. Most of the cattle drives started to the west or north of Langsua, with animals from Western Norway and the upper inland valleys. The cattle grazed in the mountain pastures throughout the summer, until the cattle herders rounded them up and prepared for the journey south. The goal was to reach the autumn markets in Oslo and other major towns in southeastern Norway.
There are still traces of ancient cattle pastures and stone shelters where herds of up to several hundred animals grazed and rested.