Gullfoss Waterfall

Gullfoss waterfall

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Gullfoss in Ice

Gullfoss (“Golden Falls”) is a waterfall located in the canyon of Olfusa river in southwest Iceland.

Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland. The wide Ölfusá river rushes southward, and about a kilometre above the falls it turns sharply to the right and flows down into a wide curved three-step “staircase” and then abruptly plunges in two stages (11 metres or 36 feet, and 21 metres or 69 feet) into a crevice 32 metres (105 ft) deep. The crevice, about 20 metres (66 ft) wide and 2.5 kilometres (1.6 mi) in length, extends perpendicular to the flow of the river. The average amount of water running down the waterfall is 140 cubic metres (4,900 cu ft) per second in the summer and 80 cubic metres (2,800 cu ft) per second in the winter. The highest flood measured was 2,000 cubic metres (71,000 cu ft) per second.

As one first approaches the falls, the edge is obscured from view, so that it appears that the river simply vanishes into the earth.

During the first half of the 20th century and some years into the late 20th century, there was much speculation about using Gullfoss to generate electricity. During this period, the waterfall was rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors. However, the investors’ attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to lack of money. The waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland, and is now protected.

Sigríður Tómasdóttir, the daughter of Tómas Tómasson, was determined to preserve the waterfall’s condition and even threatened to throw herself down. Although it is widely believed, the very popular story that Sigríður saved the waterfall from exploitation is untrue. A stone memorial to Sigriður, located above the falls, depicts her profile.

Together with Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur, Gullfoss forms part of the Golden Circle.

Short facts about Gullfoss

Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the southwest corner of Iceland.

It is situated on the Canyon of Hvita River or the White river.

On a sunny day, the water takes a golden-brown color. This is due to the fact that it is glacial water, and carries lots of sediments that glacial ice has carved off the Earth over the years.

The total cumulative height of the waterfall is 32 meters (105 feet) – this is actually split into two waterfalls. The upper waterfall has a drop of 11 meters (36 feet), while the lower waterfall has a drop of 21 meters (69 feet).

The flow of the river from the regular rains and the glacial runoff, particularly in summer, makes Gullfoss the largest volume falls in Europe.

Its water can flow at an approximate 80 cubic meters (2,825 cubic feet) per second during winter to about 140 cubic meters (4,944 cubic feet) per second during summer. The highest flood measured was 2,000 cubic meters (70,629 cubic feet) per second.

The hard rock on top is lava rock which comes from the volcanoes in Iceland because it is situated on the edge of the Eurasian plate and the North American plate. In fact, Iceland is the only place in the world where you can see the plates on the earth’s surface.

The lower rock is made of moraine which is a type of multi-layered sediment rock which has been collected by the glacier and then deposited as the glacier moved along.

Gullfoss is an example of a waterfall forming where the water has followed a fissure in the lava rock and carved a passageway through it.

As one first approaches the falls, the crevice is obscured from view, so that it appears that a mighty river simply vanishes into the earth.

The land surrounding Gullfoss is about 200 metres above sea level.

The area is blessed with lush vegetation beginning from lichens on rocks to small blueberry shrubs, and ending in wooly willows as its finale.

Rainbows often crown the majestic sight of the Gullfoss falls.

There are different viewing points available to enjoy this waterfall, both above and below.

As you follow the flow of water downwards from the Gullfoss waterfall you will find narrow canyon which is 70 meters (230 feet) deep and 2.5 kilometers (1.5 mile) long.

There are different viewing points available to enjoy this waterfall, both above and below.

As you follow the flow of water downwards from the Gullfoss waterfall you will find narrow canyon which is 70 meters (230 feet) deep and 2.5 kilometers (1.5 mile) long.

There was much speculation about using Gullfoss to generate electricity during the first half of the 20th century. In that period, the waterfall was rented indirectly by its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson, to foreign investors. But, the investors’ attempts were unsuccessful, partly due to lack of money. The waterfall was later sold to the state of Iceland, and now the waterfall is protected.

Sigríður Tómasdottir (the daughter of the landowner who was about to sell his landwhich included the falls) threatening to throw herself into the falls if the land was sold. As a result, the father pulled out of the deal, the falls was made a reserve, and the rest was history. It’s said that this story isn’t true, but nonetheless there is a memorial at the falls commemorating Sigríður Tómasdottir.

Gullfoss and its environs was designated as nature reserve in 1979 to permanently protect the waterfall and allow the public to enjoy this unique area.

Together with Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur, Gullfoss forms the Golden Circle, a popular day tour for tourists in Iceland.

Gullfoss is situated approximately 113 kilometers (70 miles) from Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland.

Gullfoss in popular culture

Gullfoss appears on the cover of the album Porcupine by the British band Echo and the Bunnymen. Additionally, the falls are referenced in the novella The Odd Saga of the American and a Curious Icelandic Flock  during a dinner, Snorri expresses a preference for Gullfoss, while Dr. Gustafsson favors Glymur.

Gullfoss features in the music video for the single “Heaven” by the band Live. During the video a young man and a young woman separated by the Hvítá river exchange written messages carried on rocks that they throw to each other over the river and the falls. At the end of the video the young man attempts to swim across the Hvítá river downstream from the Gulfoss. His young lady friend is so horrified from seeing him being washed down in the river that she also jumps in in order to save him. They then float down the river holding onto each other.