Svarfaðardalur Bridges

Photo Credit Icon Ingólfur Eldjárn

Svarfaðardalur Bridges

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  • Icon for wildlife Wildlife

By the power of two brothers, a floating bridge and a suspension bridge have been built in Svarfaðardalur, the oldest wetland nature reserve in Iceland. Material was obtained cheaply or for free and the innovative bridges bear witness to what can be done with imagination and willpower at hand.

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Opening access to a fragile wetland

Svarfaðardalur, a wetland nature reserve, is popular for bird watching and outdoor activities. Development in the nature reserve was needed to create access into the area without disturbing nesting sites of birds. For crossing the wetlands, a 120 m floating bridge was built that could change with rising water levels, and for crossing the Svarfaðardalur river a small suspension bridge was built to connect the nature reserve to a nearby forest area. The main challenge when constructing the suspension bridge was the river itself and considerable river bank protection had to be undertaken. In addition, the bridge had to be high and strong so that icebergs, icing and snow accumulation wouldn’t destroy it.

Floating bridge and suspension bridge built by brothers

Although a lot of development in Svarfaðardalur Nature Reserve has been undertaken, much of it is inaccessible and most of the area has still been untouched since the nature reserve was opened. The 120 m floating bridge, by the incentive of one man with the help of volunteers, was built from wooden units that lie on top of floating beams and when the water level in the wetland rises, the bridge rises too. The suspension bridge, a project realized by the brother of the builder of the floating bridge, is a single-span suspension bridge made from material that was obtained cheaply or for free. The river bank protection was carried out in December and the construction of the bridge itself took place in May and June to cause the least possible disruption to the ecosystem of the river and birdlife. By opening access to the nature reserve, not only is a previously hidden pearl revealed, but people's eyes are opened to Icelandic wetlands and the importance of wetlands worldwide.

Key facts

  • Location

    Svarfdælar Nature Reserve, Dalvíkurbyggð, N Iceland

  • GPS points

    N65° 55' 36.0" W18° 32' 58.4"

  • Protection Framework

    Nature reserve

  • Estimated number of visitors

    There are no figures on the number of visitors to the nature reserve.

  • High season

  • Low season

  • Project Owner

    Dalvíkurbyggð municipality

  • Designer

    Suspension bridge: Hjörleifur Hjartarson (multi-artist), Hjörleifur Stefánsson (architect) and Baldvin Einarsson (bridge engineer) / Floating bridge: Kristján Eldjárn Hjartarson (constructing architect - byggingarfræðingur)

  • Year of construction


  • Materials

    Suspension bridge: Utility poles, trawl doors, tow wires, crane wires, bridge wood. Floating bridge: construction wood, plastic pipes.

  • Grants

    ISK 10,165,750 from The Fund for Development of Tourist Sites (2014-2017) for the construction of a suspension bridge, bank protection, a floating bridge, paths and markings. ISK 4,733,000 from The National Plan (2020-2021) for paths and path repairs.