Skeiðará Bridge Monument in Skeiðarársandur

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In southern Iceland between Kirkjubæjarklaustur and Höfn lies Skeiðarársandur. Skeiðarársandur is a 1,300 sq. km. flushing sand range, a plain that Icelanders call a sandr (sandur). When part of Iceland’s largest glacier Vatnajökull melts, it creates a jökulhlaup, a glacier run. At such a time, the sandr provides enough space for the melt water to flow to the sea. However, when one of the seven volcanoes beneath the Vatnajökull erupts, things can get much more violent. The swirling meltwater then regularly takes huge blocks of ice towards the sea. That is what happened in 1996, of which Skeiðará Bridge Monument is now silent witness.

Construction and opening of Skeiðarárbrú

In 1974, the Skeiðarárbrú (Skeiðará Bridge) was opened. The longest bridge in Iceland made ring road 1 complete. From then on, people could cross the Gígjukvísl River in Skeiðarársandur by car and drive around Iceland. The single-lane bridge was a godsend for residents of southeastern Iceland, who now no longer had to drive north toward Reykjavik (or home).

Gigjukvisl Skeidara Bridge Monument Skeidararsandur Iceland -

Grimsvötn eruption in 1996

Grímsvötn, one of the volcanoes beneath the Vatnajökull glacier, erupted in 1996. The eruption had catastrophic consequences for Ring Road 1. The water level of the rivers flowing through Skeiðarársandur to the sea rose dramatically. The swirling mass of water dragged 1,000-2,000-ton ice blocks toward the sea, several of them the size of houses. Several bridges were destroyed and swept away, leaving part of the Skeiðarárbrú. Other bridges were also destroyed and part of the paved road west of the Skeiðará bridge disappeared into the glacial run.

Skeiðará Bridge Monument

Large parts of the bridge were never recovered. Two heavily bent girders of the bridge that were indeed recovered (much further downstream) now form Skeiðará Bridge Monument, also called Gígjukvísl Bridge Memorial. A unique monument in the middle of the Icelandic landscape that keeps the memory of the 1996 eruption and subsequent jökulhlaup alive.

Skeidararsandur Skeidara Bridge Monument Gigjukvisl Iceland -

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