They wanted to dam the river, to harness its power, and use it to generate hydroelectricity. No ill will was meant to the 32 metre high waterfall known as Gullfoss (meaning Golden Falls), but it would be severely altered, at least three-quarters of its water diverted. A pity, but can’t halt development for some silly sentimental reason like wanting to preserve a pretty waterfall. So said its owners, Tómas Tómasson and Halldór Halldórsson.
They were greeted with opposition from the most unlikely of sources: Tómas’s daughter, Sigríður.
Sigríður was so strongly opposed to the destruction of Gullfoss that she threatened to end her life by jumping into the falls if the hydroelectricity project were to go ahead. If the falls were to die, then she would die with them.
She marched all the way to Reykjavík to make her case, and pitted herself up against many powerful foreign and national parties. The fight went on for decades.
In the end the hydro-electricity project failed to receive funding and was abandoned. Gullfoss was left intact.
A small memorial has been erected at the site honouring Sigríður’s role in the protection of the falls.
Practical Information on reaching Gullfoss:
Gullfoss is 115 kilometres from Reykjavík. It is often combined with excursions to Þingvellir and the geysers of Haukadalur as part of a convenient day-trip referred to as the Golden Circle. More transport info here.
Read more on Gullfoss here.