Jonsfoss (or Jónsfoss; meaning “John’s Waterfall”) was the obscure waterfall near the turnoff for the road leading from the head of Lagarfljót to the controversial Kárahnjúkar Dam. We had initially cast off this waterfall as one of those miscellaneous waterfalls found in the western end of Fljótsdalur as we were searching for much larger waterfalls in the valley such as Ófæruselsfoss and Strútsfoss as well as some giant waterfalls to be sacrificed by the dam project like Töfrafoss and Kirkjufoss. However, the more we paid attention to the signs in the area, the more we realized that Jónsfoss had quite a bit going for it.
For starters, the waterfall resided in what was once the historical farm at Bessastaðir. The history came from the fact that the farm was built during settlement times (said to be mentioned in many sagas) and the accompanying church was in use up until 1600. During this time, local assemblies (þings or things) were held here while there gorge harbored a pool that was used as a drowning pool called the Sunnefa Pool. The area then became private land (we sensed this given some of the fencing erected around the falls) in 1913, and it’s said that the same family continued to own the area to this day.
Regarding the other waterfalls we attempted to see, we were ultimately stopped by private property cutting off access to some roads and/or trails leading to them (assuming we were going on the right trails in the first place). Then there was the giant waterfalls essentially sacrificed by the highly controversial Kárahnjúkar Dam. Work was underway when we were there in 2007 and we decided not to find out for ourselves whether the large waterfalls in that valley were already wiped out or not. As Iceland looks to find other ways to use their land to compete in the global economy, they have tough decisions to make. And thus, there could be other waterfalls going the way of the Fljótsdalur ones in the future.
If you’re interested, I’ve put in some interesting links regarding the Kárahnjúkar Dam…
From the car park at Hengifoss, continue west on Route 933 for 3.5km. Jonsfoss is just on the right shortly after the turnoff on Route 910 (Austurleið, which led to the Kárahnjúkar).
I recalled there was a pullout near the falls as well as some stiles to help us get closer to the falls without feeling totally like we were trespassing.
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