Barely a stone’s throw away from elegant Hraunfossar, Barnafoss (‘childrens falls”)  churns and roils through the narrow canyon on the river Hvítá

Where Hraunfossar is almost sedate and beautifully colorful, Barnafoss (also Bjarnafoss in some guides) careens through a narrow, twisting canyon before escaping into the wider pool beneath the larger waterfall.  The rapids are perhaps 9 meters (30 feet) high, and 75 meters (250 ft) long. From the tourist parking, you can walk up to a viewing point, but there are additional falls further on — although they were cordoned off when we visited.

Barnafoss has a good story associated with it, the most commonly related version being two boys from a nearby farm who tried to cross the waterfall on a natural stone bridge, but slipped and fell into the water and were drowned. Their mother cursed the falls, that no one would ever cross it without drowning. Variations on the story have the woman a widow, or the children following their parents to church on Christmas, but in all cases, they are supposed to stay home and instead try to cross the waterfall and plunge to their deaths. I imagine many icelandic mothers used this story to scare small children away from the rushing waters.

The stone bridge collapsed into the falls after an earthquake, (due to her curse, it is said), but the modern bridge gives a very lively view of the water as it rushes through the narrow chutes, carving out wide bowls and arcs in the stone. There is another stone arch over the water (part of a collapsed lava tube), but given the force of the flow, in time that one will also collapse as it is eroded away.

Barnafoss shares the same parking lot, toilets, and coffee shop as Hraunfossar, and is worth an extra few minutes to watch the rushing water.  From Reykjavik, take Rt 1 north, then east on Rt 50 and finaly further east on Rt 518 until you see the signs.

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