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Iceland The Globe Travel Guide
© David Williams

The river crossing

July 1983

There are many unbridged rivers in Iceland and only 4x4 vehicles should attempt to ford them. Most of these rivers are in the uninhabited interior but the notorious Krossá is only a few kilometres from the country`s ring road, in the popular recreational area called Thórsmörk. This is the story of how the author made his first crossing of the Krossá. The article is about the dangers encountered when crossing Icelandic rivers; it not over-dramatised but it describes the very real dangers that the author faced and it is a salutary warning to foreign visitors who don`t give the river crossings the great respect they deserve.
Thórsmörk has some spectacular scenery and this small valley leads up towards the glaciers which flow downhill from one of the ice-caps..
This is the valley glacier of Gígjökull and its glacial lake Jökullón.

Úlfar sat me down by his side. He had been one of the first people to drive a vehicle through the Icelandic Highlands, crossing glacial rivers, deserts, quicksands, lavafields, snowfields and everything else that Nature had flung into the Icelanders` backyard. His years of exploration had paid off and he now made a good living by taking foreign visitors around the country in his Iceland Safari bus tours. Although few of his guests met him, Úlfar Jacobsen`s name was known to many as one of the country`s most distinguished modern explorers.

My planned journey around the country was to take me into the highlands, through the deserts and across well over a hundred unbridged rivers. Úlfar seemed confident that my Land Rover and I would make the journey safely but he was very insistent on one point - I should have a guide to take me to Thórsmörk as I needed to ford the Krossá. I had been warned about this river by other Icelandic friends. It was a killer. One recent visitor had got his Range Rover stuck right in the middle of the river and as the cold and fast-running glacial meltwater scooped away the gravel from beneath the tyres, the vehicle sank deeper and deeper into the water. In forty minutes it had vanished.

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