The Ivalo starts from the Korsa fjelds hugging the border between Inari and Enontekiö. The first streams branching off of it can be found on the bogs of Peltotunturi on the border between Finland and Norway along the western border of the Lemmenjoki National Park. The river flows into Lake Inari from a 5-kilometre long delta approximately 10 kilometres from the village of the same name, which is located on both banks of this meandering, shallow run. The Repo, Tolos, Sota and Kylä Rivers, the latter two of which are renowned for the gold found in them, are some of the Ivalo River's tributaries.
For almost its entire length, the Ivalo flows through wilderness. Near its headwaters, the river meanders as a narrow stream through the southernmost bogs of the Lemmenjoki National Park. Halfway down its length, the national park becomes the Hammastunturi Wilderness Area, through which it flows almost all the way to Ivalo.
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