Our data, powered by FarOut: Download the #1 app for paddling the East Glacial. Guide by Steve Merrow
East Glacial Paddling Guide
The power and uniqueness of the Icelandic landscape is marked by volcanoes, glaciers, and waterfalls. The East Glacial River is born out of the Hofsjökull Glacier in the highlands and descends north towards the coast. The East is the only major river on the island that is without a waterfall, making it an ideal target for many rafters and kayakers. The 17 kilometer (11 mile) day section of the East carves deep into a remote gorge, constricting the glacial water into a world class section of continuous Class IV+ whitewater. Consistent flows, clean water, limited hazards and a big water feel make this the best section for rafting not only in Iceland, but all of Europe. If you are on a kayaking mission, this section is full of great boofs, big waves, and surfing.
Viking is the leading whitewater company on the East Glacial River. From the guides to the equipment everything is tailored around safety and guest experience. This is why all of their guides hold Swift Water Rescue and International Rafting Federation (IRF) certificates. And why they provide drysuits to all of their guests – not the industry standard wetsuits. Learn more about Viking Rafting.
The consistent flows of the East Glacial River mean there is excellent whitewater accessible from late April through September. The shuttle is long, and involves a private takeout. While the Icelandic people can be open-minded to people walking on their land, linking up with the local rafting company, Viking Rafting, is more convenient than knocking on doors to speak with farmers who often speak little English. Viking provides camping, shuttles to the river, and guides for rafters and kayakers alike.
The East Glacial River would be considered Class V- by most US standards. The frigid glacial water, committing gorge, and an inability to scout every rapid means that teams who take this on should be boating at a high level. If you have any hesitation operating in this type of environment, hire a local guide to show you the lines and assist with logistics.
The biggest hazard on the river is a long swim through rapids stacked on top of each other. The constricted nature of the river through the gorge gives the river a high-volume character. Prepare for limited and unstable eddies, massive boils, and powerful waves and holes. Drysuits should be considered mandatory.
Permits are not required to run this stretch of the East Glacial.
The shuttle for the East Glacial is long, and it involves a private takeout. Our recommendation is to contact Viking Rafting and use their shuttle services and take-out. Alternatively, you can request permission to take-out on the land of a local resident. If you are driving on a road that has livestock gates, leave them exactly how you found them.
The commercial put-in is here, and the alternate put-in, 1.4km downstream with a slightly easier road, is here. If you use the alternate put-in, hike down to the river on river left. The Viking Rafting take-out is here. Make sure to negotiate in advance with Viking Rafting for the usage of their take-out if you decide to use it.
Driving in Iceland
Don’t Speed: On the ring road, the speed limit is 90kmh. Painfully slow for most people, the speed limit is intended to reduce livestock accidents. The speed limit is enforced by hidden cameras all throughout the island. It is not uncommon for rental companies to surprise speeders with hundreds of dollars in fines at the end of the trip! If you are driving on a road that has livestock gates, leave them exactly how you found them. Every horse and sheep on the island has an owner. If you injure or kill any livestock while driving, you must pay the owner for the animal, regardless of where it was. Drive slowly, enjoy the landscape, and keep your eyes out for sheep and horses!
Stay on the road: Iceland is famous for its “F” roads that penetrate into the interior of the island. Have a good understanding of where your rental car is allowed to go. If you are able to use the F roads, stay on the clearly labeled route. Driving off road will almost certainly result in getting stuck, rescued, and paying a massive fine. Do some research before you leave to see when the roads open. Things start to open towards the end of Spring into Summer, but it varies based on region, snowpack, and road condition. When stopping to take photos, find a nice pull out to do so. There are many accidents when trucks and cars swerve to avoid poorly parked tourists.
East Glacial River Flow Information
The runnable season for the East Glacial tends to be from late April through September. High water spikes can occur in the summer so make sure that you are monitoring the flow in the days leading up to your trip.
From 25-45 m³/s the East Glacial has large eddies and breaks between rapids. At 50-65 m³/s it is a mix of drop/pool and continuous. Eddies are less available, more unstable, and the boils become a hindrance. From 70-120 m³/s the river becomes a freight train of water with huge features, massive boils, and few eddies. Commercial rafting companies will not operate higher than 120 m³/s. Flows tend to be steady and predictable for much of the year. Several days of south wind (warm air) on the glacier is the primary cause for the river to spike.
To check the flow gauge for the East Glacial, head over to this website. From the home page, click on “Austari Jökulsá” on the map (the Icelandic name for the East Glacial). See below for the location of the river on the flow map.
Our East Glacial guide has it all: 20 Waypoints | Live Location | 17 photos
$24.99 – Powered by FarOut
4.8★★★★★ 23K+ Reviews
East Glacial River – Class IV+
The East Glacial river gorge is one of the best stretches of whitewater in Europe. This 17km stretch of whitewater offers stellar views, continuous rapids, and big hits.