Save the Austari-Jökulsá
Iceland’s iconic Austari-Jökulsá river, known for its world-famous whitewater and beloved by locals and tourists alike, is at risk of being dammed for hydropower. A new initiative called ‘Save the Austari-Jökulsá!’ is fighting to protect the river and preserve its natural beauty.
« In the far reaches of North West Iceland, within one of Iceland’s biggest Fjords, Skagafjörður. Fed by Iceland’s third largest glacier, Hofsjökull. The raging waters of the Austari-Jökulsá (East Glacial River), flows freely through its towering canyon walls towards the North Atlantic. Within this free flowing river there is a 17 km section of world famous whitewater known as the ‘Beast from the east’. One of Europe’s best high volume half day sections. Before the Austari-Jökulsá reaches the North Atlantic it confluences with the Vestari-Jökulsá (West Glacial River), which is also fed by the Hofsjökull glacier. Then together they flow out into the North Atlantic undisrupted.
Unfortunately the supreme national parliament of Iceland wants these rivers to be considered for being dammed for hydropower. A proposed 1000 GWH/year on the Austari-Jökulsá and to divert the flow of the Vestari-Jökulsá to add an additional 100 GWh/year to the current Blönduvirkjun power plant. This is all a part of a greater master plan framework to transition Iceland fully away from fossil fuels. As nearly 85% of Iceland’s total primary energy supply derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources.
These rivers provide so much more than just potential energy.
For nearly two decades hundreds of Icelandic school teenagers have traveled to Skagafjord to be taken down the Vestari every year. A right of passage before finishing school has formed a river culture, which sees many returning later on in their adult life to take on the Austari-Jökulsá.
The local community has seen thousands of international tourists over the years. Tourists use local businesses and accommodation in preparation to be taken down through the inspiring canyons of the Austari and Vestari. Gaining a perspective and stories of the river that they take with them for the rest of their lives.
‘Save the Austari-Jökulsá!’ was set up in January 2023 by Benjamin Rowlands to help protect this free flowing river from being destroyed by hydropower. The project is thankfully supported by ‘Free Rivers Fund’, ‘Save Our Rivers’, ‘Palm’, ‘NRS’ and ‘Viking Rafting’. »
By: Benjamin Rowlands