There are 560 freshwater lakes on the islands of the Solovetsky archipelago, and 503 lakes are on the Bolshoy Solovetsky Island. In 18-19 centuries over a hundred major lakes were connected by a network of canals making it possible not only to supply the monastery with fresh water but also to improve the environment conditions on the Solovki.
When visiting the Solovki you can see many Orthodox holy places: Bolshoi Zayatsky Island or the Ascension skit on the Sekirnaya mountain, and a tour of the lakes and canals will give you an idea of the virgin pure nature of the Solovki, almost unsullied by the civilization.
As is known, the monks began to create the system of lake and canals in the 18 century, when at the walls of the Solovetsky Kremlin there was dug out the Holy Lake, which was connected by a canal to the Freshwater Lake. From the Holy Lake the water through the Mill and Laundry was drained to the White Sea. But all the same there wasn’t enough water for drinking and household needs of the growing monastery, so it was necessary to create a viable canal system.
The lake and canal system of the Solovki was established after a large dam had been constructed on the Big Red Lake diverting the flow of the Solovki streams from the north to the south, toward the Solovetsky Kremlin. Since that time the monks had begun to keep watch on the canals during the spring floods. They deepened the canals and paved their banks with big slabs to prevent erosion.
To see the lake and canal system of the Solovki, you need go to the boat station on the Middle Pert Lake. It is located 2.5 kilometers from the Solovetsky Kremlin. There you can rent a boat and alone row it along the Big and Small rings (there is no sense in buying a tour for the purpose).
You shouldn’t overrate your strength as it may take you up to 3 hours to pass even the Small ring, and considering the strong winds of the Solovki it will be quite difficult. And you will have to row at least 5-6 hours along the Big ring to reach the dam on the Big Red Lake. It would be better to go there for the whole day making stops for meals and walks in the Solovki forests and on the banks of the lakes. If the weather is bad and windy, it would be better for you to abstain from the trip, as the rowing will be really very difficult.
During the tour of the lakes and canals of the Solovki you will see the famous dam between the Round Orlovo Lake and the Shchuchye (“Pike”) Lake, which permitted to control the level of water in canals and make them navigable not only for boats but also for small steamers delivering cargoes from different parts of the island.
Beyond the dam you will have to decide whether to row it along the Big or Small ring. If you aren’t prepared to row it for the whole day, you should go along the Small ring, as the most interesting attraction of this tour – narrow canals of 3 meters wide paved with big stones – are much closer in the Small ring than in the Big ring.