Gullfoss is one of Iceland’s most beautiful waterfalls in Hvítá river coming from Langjökull, Iceland’s second biggest glacier. From Reykjavik the distance is 115 km / 71 miles, about 1,5 hours drive.
Gullfoss is one of most powerful waterfalls in Iceland, with an average flow of water about 130 cubic meters per second. Less during the winter and the average flow about 109 cubic meters per second. The biggest flows have been recorded up to 2000 cubic meters per second. To put that in context, it equals about 26, full 40 feet containers per second.
The white river canyon is about 70 meters / 229 feet high and about 2,5 km long and was formed at the end of the last ice age about 9000 years ago. A huge amount of glacial water added up in the highlands and when the dam broke this water came down with such force that it is believed to have dug out the canyon more or less in about 25-30 hours. The amount of water that flowed down in these 25-30 hours equals the same amount of water running in the river for five years as it is today.
In the beginning of the 20th. century, the owners of Gullfoss were tricked to lease the waterfall to people who wanted to build a dam and a hydro plant for electricity. To make a long story short, a lady from that area, Sigrídur í Brattholti, was in the front of a group of people protesting and she even walked more than once to Reykjavik and back to protest and attend the court. The story says that it was not until she threatened to kill herself by jumping into the waterfall as she was not going to watch them destroy the waterfall, that people started to listen. At least in 1929 she saved Gullfoss, one of our most beautiful waterfalls with years of struggle, a lot of money spent and several times to court.
Her lawyer assisting her in her struggle to save the waterfall was a young man Sveinn Björnsson, Iceland’s first president, elected in 1944, the year when Iceland was independent from Denmark.
At Gullfoss are very good facilities, a good restaurant / cafeteria and a souvenir shop. From Gullfoss one can continue the mountain road Kjölur, between the two glaciers, Langjökull and Hofsjökull to the north part of Iceland, Blönduós or Akureyri. During winter time this road is closed for normal cars, only open for converted 4×4 jeeps.
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