The scenic value of the rapids was recognised early on and steps were taken to protect it. In 1842, Russian Tsar Nicholas I signed an order to establish the first Finnish nature reserve alog the banks of the rapids, Kruununpuisto Park. At first, an inn was built on the banks for people coming to see the rapids, followed by the first wooden hotel. After the hotel buildings were distroyed in several fires, the Valtionhotelli hotel was finally built of stone on the banks of the rapids in 1903. Designed by Usko Nyström, the Valtionhotelli is among Finland's most significant buildings built in the National Romantic style.
The Russian imperial family frequently visited Imatra. Other imperial admirers included Emperor Dom Pedro II of Brazil, whose signature is carved in the rock by the lower pavillion on the river banks. Imatra was also visited by many famous artists, such as composers Jean Sibelius, Alexander Scriabin, Igor Stravinsky ant Pyotr Tchaikovsky, and painters Albert Edelfelt, Akseli Gallen-Kallela and Ilya Repin. The rapids were depicted in a number of artworks.
The rugged river banks form the heart of the Kruununpuisto Park. There are plenty of things to see in the park, such as the unusual river potholes, signatures carved in rock by visitors over time, an open air summer theatre, and the Imatrankoski hydro-electric power plant. The dam blocking the rapids is opened during the summer for the popular rapids shows, which attract thousands of spectators every summer. The park area features several gazebos and spots for admiring the scenic views. Take a walk on one of the paths to explore Finland's oldest nature reserve. If you are lucky, you may even catch a glimpse of the rare flying squirrel of the white-blacked woodpecker. The Ivoniemi nature trail meanders round the power plant spit and through riverside landscapes shaped by man ant the forces of nature over time.