The oil shale industry and Ida-Viru witch wells

Ratva nõiakaevud kevadise suurvee ajal
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Ratva witch wells in Alutaguse municipality, which have been bubbling since 2018, offer competition to the ancient Tuhala witch well in Kose, in Harju County.

The water play from the ancient times of the Tuhala witch’s well can be observed from one day to a few weeks, when the underground river of the karst area pours out during high waters.

On the other hand, Ratva witch wells erupting near Kiikla village are a gift from the oil shale industry. The pipeline springs were built to drain excess water from the closed Viru mine. To this end, two holes about 40 meters deep with a diameter of half a meter were drilled from the ceiling of the mine. The water leaving the pipelines flows into the rivers through a pre-treated ditch and stream and ends in the Gulf of Finland, saving the surrounding fields and forests from flooding.

Like Tuhala witch well, overflow wells start to bubble during high water.

Ratva nõiakaev kevadise suurvee ajal

A new attraction

Ratva witch wells have become a new attraction in Ida-Virumaa, and in order to gain better access to the landmark, the mining company has even built a parking lot there.

As soon as Ratva witch wells „went into operation“, it was discovered by the winter swimmers of Ida-Virumaa, who started their summer season there. I also tried the ’new SPA’ myself and I can confirm from my experience: going into the water is safe and the bottom is steady, the temperature in the middle of April is pinching five degrees.

The body got warm again on the wheels of Orava farm sauna, which this time was parked on the edge of a bubbling pool, but may just as well offer bathing pleasures in an industrial environment in  Aidu quarry or on-shore of some natural Kurtna lake.

If you are not eager to climb into a natural Jacuzzi, then in any case, the picture for the eyes will be impressive. „When the river Tuhala floods, a fountain which is one meter high rises in Ratva. This happens when water is released from the passages in the mine during a flood,“” comments Priit Orav. But in summer, Ratva wells dry up.

Tour of the wells of witches

If we are on the path of the witch wells, you can make a detour and get acquainted with three more similar wells near the village of Kose in Jõhvi parish. They appeared a little earlier than the ones we visited, but the reason is the same: they act to divert water after the closure of Ahtme mine.

„I have not seen such a large eruption force in Kose as in Ratva, although, the water flows there most of the year,“ Priit Orav knows a lot of facts.

The artificial springs have received their official name from the Sanniku stream, through which excess water is directed to the Pühajõgi River. „Currently, much less water flows out of the ground than in the early years, but it is still the only witch well in Estonia that works all year round,“ says geographer Mait Sepp.

Sanniku pipe springs, rich in water, are also visited in the spring, only that they are more difficult to find in the forest behind Kose than Ratva well. The beginning is simple: you have to drive from Jõhvi to Kose and turn into the village from the RMK office. Then it is necessary to drive through the village to the road leading to the forest and move straight on for about one and a half kilometers. The right target is marked with the state forest sign. If you already reach the railway, you are lost and need to drive about 400 meters back. Those arriving are greeted by three domed fountains.


 Journalist, the ’Põhjarannik’ newspaper

„The story is written with the support of the EU Regional Development Fund“