Walking path above Skógafoss waterfall in S. Iceland closed to protect vegetation

NOT A PRETTY SIGHT The vegetation on the heath has taken a beating due to heavy traffic at a time when the vegetation is at its most fragile. Photo/Environment Agency

Walking paths at another popular tourist destination in South Iceland have been closed to protect vegetation. Walking paths on Skógaheiði heath, above Skógafoss waterfall have been closed to all traffic by the Icelandic Environment Agency to protect vegetation on the heath. Last week the agency closed walking paths along Fjaðrárgljúfur canyon.

 The paths which have been closed are above the viewing points of Skógafoss, and do not affect visitors' ability to enjoy the view of the waterfall. The area is part of Fimmvörðuháls hiking trail, one of the most popular and beautiful hiking trails in Iceland. The area in question begins where the gravel paths around the waterfall end, and dirt paths begin, about 650 meters (0.4 miles) north of the viewing deck above the waterfall.

The reasons for both closures are the same: Rain and thawing snow, combined with heavy traffic, have overwhelmed the walking paths which have turned into impassable mudfields. Rather than stay on the paths, which is impossible because the paths are impassable, people have walked on the vegetation along the path. As the ground is extremely wet, the delicate vegetation cannot take the stress and large areas have been destroyed by foot traffic.

Read more: Visitors refuse to respect closure of walking paths, leaving a trail of destruction at Fjaðrárgljúfur

The Environment Agency urges people to respect the closing which will remain in effect for two weeks, or until the conditions in the area have improved sufficiently.

The Skógafoss waterfall:
‘The Forest Waterfall’ as the word Skógafoss translates, is one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Iceland. This classic 62m high and 15 m wide waterfall is the last and most spectacular in a series of falls that are found in the Skógá River. Over 30 beautiful smaller waterfalls grace the river before it ultimately gushes over the cliffs at Skógar, afterwhich it gently wends its way over the Skógarsandar sand flats and onwards to the Atlantic Ocean. A path leads to the top of the waterfall and from there it is possible to hike into Skógargil ravine, where as many as 30 beautiful smaller waterfalls can be seen along the way.


The Legend of Skógar Falls

A legend tells of a man named Thrasi Thórólfsson, the first settler at Skógar who hid a chest full of gold underneath the waterfall. Repeated glimpses of the chest eventually enticed three men to make an attempt to retrieve  the chest from the water. The men managed to get ahold of one of the handles, but as they tried to drag the chest to land, the ring broke off and the chest disappeared once again under the falls, putting an end to their efforts. It is said that the ring once served as a handle on the church door at Skógar Church and can be seen today on the entrance door at Skógar Folk Museum.  When the sun shines on Skógafoss you can still see a glimmer of gold appearing In the waterfall.


An old rhyme about this legend says:

‘Thrasi’s chest is full of riches
under the Skógar Falls.
Whosoever is first to find it
gets to keep it all.’

See on map

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