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Gullfoss Waterfalls

Region: South Iceland
Coordinates: 64.3266984° N 20.1248012° W

The Golden Waterfalls (Gullfoss) are situated in the upper part of River Hvita. The water cascades down two steps, one 11 m high, and the other 22 m, into the 2,5 km long canyon below. This canyon was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic flood waves and is lengthened by 25 cm a year by the constant erosion.

Above the waterfalls are dangerous rapids. History tells us about daredevils, who forded the river there. One of them was a young man, who watched his fathers sheep every summer on the west bank of the river. On the other side, a young woman did the same thing for her family. They started shouting across the river and became acquainted that way. Eventually the young man proposed to the girl across the river and she accepted on the condition, that he came right away across to seal their agreement. He did that and of course, they lived happily ever after.

In 1930 and 1948, the river was flooded to the brim of the canyons and both times bridges further down river were swept away. Early in the 20th century the farmer of Brattholt, who owned the water rights of the river contracted them to an English firm for a hydroelectric power station. The farmers daughter opposed this and even threatened to throw herself into the foaming water to prevent this accident. She fought bravely alone until a young lawyer, who later became the countries first president, came to her aid. Together they managed to save the waterfalls and she was commemorated by a monument in the canyon by the waterfalls in 1978.

In the canyon, alternating strata of lavas and moraines (till/tillite) are obvious and tell us about warm and cold epochs of the Ice Age.

Main Photo Credit: Visit South Iceland

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