Gullfoss is a unique natural phenomenon that triggers varying impressions in people. Its conservation, and thereby its existence in its present form, has a unique history.
Gullfoss and the surrounding area were made a nature reserve in 1979 to give people the best possible opportunity to enjoy this unique natural scene. The area’s ecosystem is also protected and its vegetation remains untouched. Attempts are made to minimize man’s footprint, to keep man-made structures. to a minimum and not to disturb the land and geological formations.
Gullfoss is like no other
“No waterfall in Europe can match Gullfoss. In wildness and fury it outdoes Niagara Falls of the United States. Thousands of unharnessed horsepowers flow continuously into the gorge, year in and year out. Soon, however Gullfoss will be harnessed for electricity production to supply the inhabitants of the south of the country with abundance of light and heat.”
~Taken from a travel book by two Danes in the retinue of King Frederick VII after a visit to Gullfoss 1907
I will not sell my friend!
In the year 1907 an Englishman wanted to harness the power of Gullfoss for electricity generation. Tómas Tómasson a farmer in Brattholt at the time, declined the offer saying: “I will not sell my friend.”
Later on the waterfall was leased to foreign investors. The farmer’s daughter in Brattholt, Sigríður Tómasdóttir, sought to have the rental contract voided, but her attempt failed in court. The construction of the proposed power plant never happened, and in the year 1929 the rental contract was cancelled due to the non-receipt of payments. Sigríður’s struggle for the waterfall was selfless and unique. She often worked around the clock to follow up her case, made long journeys along the mountain roads, waded across great rivers through-out the year and had many meetings with government officials in Reykjavik. In view of this struggle, Sigríður has often been called Iceland’s first environmentalist.
Where does the name Gullfoss come from?
It is likely Gullfoss was given its name because of the golden evening hue which often colors its glacial water. Another theory is that the name was inspired by the rainbow which often appears when the sunshine hits the water-spray thrown up by the waterfall.
Another theory about the name can be found in the Sveinn Pálsson travel journal. Once upon a time, a farmer named Gygur lived at Gýgjarhóll. He had plenty of gold and could not bear the thought of someone else possessing it after his lifetime. To prevent this, he placed the gold in the coffer and threw it in the waterfall – which ever since has been named Gullfoss.