Before the railway network, waterways were the most important transport routes between Vilppula, Ruovesi and Tampere. One of the routes, the Vilppu Route, operated from Vilppula to Ruovesi and onwards to Lake Näsijärvi. The signposted winter roads crossed the frozen lakes and narrow strips of land in between.
STEAMBOATS ON THE GREAT LAKE ROUTES
Probably the first steam boat to travel below Vilppulankoski rapids was the galleass Jalo, which fetched a load of planks for Mänttä sawmill in June 1864. Galeasses Yökkö and Wilpas would carry logs to Tampere. Regular passenger traffic began in summer 1870, when steamship Toivo operated twice a week between Tampere and Vilppula, and at the end of the 1870s, two-deck passenger ship Mänttä also began operations. The boarding quays were located below the rapids in the boat harbour and near the church.
With the arrival of the railway, boat traffic died down for a period, until the early 1900s saw a revival of the lake boats, when the small-seized ship Kaima and Mänttä returned to operate the Vilppu Route. The ships even picked up passengers from tiny piers to take them to Ruovesi, where they would join larger ships to Tampere.
In 1907, the steamboat cooperative Tarjanne was established and it purchased S/S Into. The ship also carried goods and sometimes even cattle. At best, the journey from Vilppula to Ruovesi took only three-and-a-half hours. Into operated on the Vilppu Route until 1938.
In addition to passenger ships, tugboats and small private steam boats were also a regular sight downstream from the rapids. Timber was floated from Keuruu waterways through Vilppulankoski all the way to the sawmills of Pori on the west coast of Finland. At its height, floats made up of thousands of logs were floating on the lake awaiting to pass through the rapids. In addition to saw and pulp wood, firewood stored below the rapids was also transported by water. Firewood was transported by barges, which were made in Vilppula and pulled by tugboats. Serlachius Oy built the last flat-bottomed barges below Vilppulankoski in 1938.
The boat harbour at Vilppulankoski is still very actively in use, but the low height of the Kirkkosalmi Bridge and the shallow passage mean that large ships can no longer moor in it and have to moor in the harbour at Mäkitalonlahti, which is maintained by the Vilppulan Veneilijät boating club.