Gullfoss is a waterfall located in the southwest corner of Iceland.
It is situated on the Canyon of Hvita River or the White river.
Gullfoss means “Golden Waterfall” in Icelandic.
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.
This canyon was created at the end of the Ice Age by catastrophic flood waves and is lengthened by 25 centimeters (10 inches) a year by the constant erosion.
Gullfoss is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Iceland.
There was much speculation about using Gullfoss to generate electricity during the first half of the 20th century. In that period, the waterfall wasrented 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.