West Glacial River

Often overshadowed by the more intense East Glacial River, the West is truly a worthwhile trip for families, intermediate kayakers, or packrafters traveling through Iceland. For the first several kilometers the West flows through an open valley with excellent views of the surrounding mountains and horses in nearby fields. Steam from geothermal activity marks the beginning of the steep canyon that will remain all the way to the confluence with the East. The canyon scenery is stunning and the whitewater is consistent, splashy, and fun. High water produces some bigger features that are always easy to avoid. At the confluence with the East the canyon widens and gives boaters an intimate look at unique volcanic deposits like a bright red cliff and an arch with water passing underneath. While the put-in is easy to use, the take-outs along this stretch are private. If you are a private boater or looking for a guided trip, stop by the local rafting outfitter Viking Rafting for more information. 

River Info

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 West Glacial.

Shuttle Info

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 conditions. 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. 

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.

East Glacial River Location

Viking rafting logo

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.

Send a message to Viking Rafting.

West Glacial River Map & Guide

WARNING: Conditions change frequently and may make this guide useless. This guide is NOT a replacement for sound judgment, experience, or skill level. 

Class III Rapid

Class III rapid or river feature.

Put-In / Take-Out

The most commonly used access points.

Fun Zone

Well known surf waves, jump rock locations, and safe swim areas

Point of Interest

These include scout locations.

West Glacial River – Class III

The West Glacial river is a scenic stretch of consistent, intermediate whitewater.


Commercial put-in to Viking Rafting take-out is 17km.



Meters per Kilometer

Commercial put-in to Viking Rafting take-out is is 5.29m/km

Shuttle Time

Commercial put-in to Viking Rafting take-out is about 2.5 hours round trip. Google Map directions.

Kilometer 0 – Put-in: As you pass through livestock gates, please leave them as you found them.

Kilometer 0.17 – Bridge: A bridge passes overhead about 150 meters below the put-in.

Kilometer 2.46 – Hot Spring: River Right, This hot spring is impressive but not for soaking.

Kilometer 3.09 – Left Turn Rapid: Class III. The holes on the outside of this turn can get crunchy at high water.

Kilometer 6.2 – East Glacial Confluence: This is a special mixing of the brown water of the West and the blue water of the East.

Kilometer 7.25 – Red Wall Cliff:  River Left. Stunning red volcanic deposit.

Kilometer 7.47 – Surf Wave: Class III. Depending on flows this can be an awesome surf wave.

Kilometer 7.71 – The Arch: Class III. Remarkable basalt arch on river right. The current drives into the arch so give it some space on the left.

Kilometer 10.5  – Private Take-out: River Left. This is a private take-out used by local rafting company Viking Rafting. If you would like access to the take-out, you can stop by the rafting base and make arrangements.

Posts related to the West Glacial River