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Skaftafell National Park
It was founded on September 15, 1967, and enlarged twice afterwards. Today the park measures about 1700 km² (656 mi²), making it Iceland's second largest national park. There you can find for example the valley Mörsįrdalur, the mountain Kristinartindar and the glacier Skaftafellsjökull (a spur of the Vatnajökull ice cap).
The landscape is very similar to some of the Alps, but it has been formed in thousands of years by different influences of fire (volcanic eruptions of Öraefajökull or Hvannadalshnjśkur) and water (the glaciers Skeišarįjökull and Skaftafellsjökull), the rivers Skeišarį, Morsį und Skaftafellsį. Volcanic eruptions under the ice-cap can give rise to glacier runs (Icelandic:jökulhlaup) which swell the Skeišarį river massively. The sandy wasteland between the glacier and the sea caused by jökulhlaups is called the Sandur. The last jökulhlaup occurred in 1996.
Skaftafell is well re-nowned for its agreeable climate and the sunny days in summer - which are not so common in the south of Iceland. There is a bigger birch wood (Bęjarstašarskógur). Since sheep are no longer allowed to be kept in the park, vegetation is prospering. There are also a lot of different birds to be seen in the park as well as foxes.
Not too far from the visitors' centre, the waterfall Svartifoss (Black Falls) flows over a step of about 12m. Its name comes from the black basalt columns behind it.
In the Middle Ages there were some bigger farms in this area, but they had to be given up due to volcanic eruptions and the ensuing glacier runs. The two surviving farms are now living mostly from tourism. The park has also an information center and a camp ground. A lot of hiking trails are crossing the area.
See also: Waterfalls of Iceland
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