Jostedalsbreen National Park

– arctic nature in a lush scenic setting

Visitors to Jostedalsbreen National Park encounter a landscape of great variety. Out of the fjords, glacier-covered mountains rise 2 000 meters high. There are U-shaped valleys, moraines, polished rock faces, outwash plains, boulder-strewn fields and scree slopes. Formed  by ice and water over thousands of years, this landscape is still constantly changing.

The largest ice-sheet in mainland Europe
Jostedalsbreen is a glacial ice sheet with many valley glaciers, rising from 200 to 2 000 metres (600 - 6000 ft). Approximately half of the national park is covered by ice. It is one of the largest remaining areas of undisturbed landscape in southern Norway and therefore important for both nature conservation and recreation.

Recent research has shown that 8 000 – 5 000 years ago the Jostedal glacier had melted away completely. Later, it reappeared, reaching its maximum during the "little ice-age" around 1750. Many valley farms were destroyed by the advancing ice front, like at Nigard, or when huge blocks of ice broke away at Tungøyane in Oldedalen when the Brenndal glacier calved.

From fertile valleys to ice and barren mountains
The enormous variety of environmental types over short distances is caused by variations in local climate and altitude. Elm, lime and heat-loving plants like Broad Helleborine and Spring Pea thrive on the wooded lower slopes, while directly above at 1500 m there are arctic-alpine plants such as Glacier Crowfoot and Loiseleuria.

The cultural landscape with its farms, shielding, and copses of birch show that man has long subsisted "under the glacier". Land is still farmed in the communities surrounding the national park. However, the tradition of moving with the cattle up to the mountain pastures in the summer has only survived in one or two places.

Gushing streams, rivers and waterfalls high up on the mountain slopes or down in the valleys are some of the hallmarks of the area, especially the Stryn and Loen river systems.

An important highway of days bygone
In the past, tracks and drove roads crossed the great Jostedal ice sheet, linking the western valleys and fjords to the inland districts of Sogn and south-east Norway. Cattle and horses were in the 18th and 19th century driven across the glacier to be sold in the markets in the east. This practice would be difficult to carry on today, as the ice sheet has shrunk and is therefore steeper and features more crevasses.

This entire region has long been regarded as an attractive playground for walkers and hikers. Skiing the length of the glacier has become popular in recent years, often with a detour to the highest point of the glacier named Lodalskåpa (2 083 metres). Without specialist knowledge and proper equipment, however, walking or skiing on the glacier is quite hazardous.

The traditional routes in the valleys around the glacier and across mountain passes, such as Oldeskardet and Supphelleskardet, offer exciting walks. The valley glaciers of Briksdal, Fjærland and Nigardsbreen are well-known, and paths lead directly to the glacier fronts Here are the most popular tourist areas, with up to 250 000 visitors each year.

The National Park
Jostedalsbreen national park was established in 1991 with an area of 1 230 km2 in 7 municipalities, and was extended in the north with 80 km2 in 1998. Adjacent to the national park lies Nigardsbreen Nature Reserve (28 km2) established in 1985.

There are three visitor centres in the area, Norsk Bremuseum (Norwegian Glacier Museum) in Fjærland, Jostedalsbreen National Park Centre in Stryn and Breheimsenteret Jostedal in Luster. The visitor centres are private foundations, recognised by the government as official National Park Centres from 1996.

With no settlements or roads inside the park, Jostedalsbreen National Park is a Category II park according to the IUCN criteria.

Park management
The County Governor of Sogn og Fjordane, representing the central government, is in charge of the management of Jostedalsbreen National Park. The Norwegian Nature Inspectorate (SNO) takes care of information, maintenance and supervision in the field. Both the County Governor and Norwegian Nature Inspectorate provide economic grants to projects - initiated by local farmers, organizations or tourism business - that are judged as positive for the national park.

The Advisory board of supervision for the park (established in 1993), with representatives from the 7 municipalities with area in the park, meets 1 – 2 times a year. The board focuses on management guidelines and matters of common interest to all parties involved.

19 years after its establishment, Jostedalsbreen National Park is thoroughly rooted in the local community and a resource for the future.

For more information, please visit the Jostedalsbreen Visitor Centre website or contact the County Governor of Sogn and Fjordane.

Title by Photographer