Sjoa River - Source to Mouth
* The Sjoa´s glacier fed primary sources (Storåa, Vesleåa, Muru and Leirungsåa) arise in the south-eastern peaks of the Jotunheimen mountain range and pool in the 18 km long Lake Gjende.
* The cool glacial emerald waters flow swiftly at first on departing Gjende. A pool-drop section for the first couple of kilometres to Maurvangen before entering the shallow 6km long Øvre Sjødalsvatnet. A few hundred metres of channelled rapids then takes the flow into the smallish nearly oval shaped Nedre Sjødalsvatnet.
* The northern exit lines the river into a swift narrow channel with bedrock rapids before descending steeply through a series of slides & falls and the narrow, pot-holed drop under the Griningsdalbru.
* After a series of continuous rapids, the river eases up soon after the Russå confluence on river left and meanders wide and calm over a sandy riverbed and around long grassed & wooded islands for several kilometres.
* The narrowing of the river soon after Hindvangen is the warning that the 23 metere waterfall, Stuttgongfossen is approaching. A series of ledges and small drops follows shortly after before calming again into the meandering flow around islands at Steinholet.
* Aftera few islands the river narrows and swiftly picks up speed through a continuous section of rapids that goes past the Veo confluence on river left. After a short distance in slower braided waters, a large triangular shaped rock mid-river marks that Ovre Tråsåfossen is approaching. A 200 metre long rapid that cuts into the bedrock, with short slides and a riverwide ledge-hole near the exit.
* The river now moves away from the R51 and at a sharp sweeping bend to the right with a near riverwide hole followed by "rock gates" marking the last rapid to warn of the Ridderspranget waterfalls. A mini-gorge, a boulder choke and 5 significant drops/falls, some portaging and within 2 kilometre brings you to a committing narrow canyon where the Sjollibekken waterfall spills in on river right.
* The forested river walls slowly open up through fast flows to later reveal the 3 main bedrock rapids of the Brurusti section. The Muru confluence on river right warns of the last big rapid, Nedre Tråsåfossen.
* The river valley now widens for several kilometers over a combination of bed-load and bedrock.
* At the confluence with the Rinda on river left the river enters a deep canyon known as Åsengjuvet, here the river twists and turns through relatively technical & continuous rapids & whitewater with several waterfalls spilling in on the left and right till the valley opens up at the village of Heidal.
* Here starts the most popular section of commercial river activities, traversing through open farmed countryside with historic buildings. The heart of the playrun runs through a short gorge section at the Big Bend with the noticeable layered slate rock features of the river walls. The Prestgard, Harlaug, Faukstad and Storødegård bridges mark the commercial descent routes, put-ins and take-outs.
* Tjuvspranget (Washing Machine rapid) is the start of the final four kilometers that passes the Sjoa Kayak Camp and then through the Åmot Fallene bedrock gorge.
* The last 100 meters channels and calms significantly as the Sjoa spills into, and is now but a tributary of the Gudbrandsdalslågen, Norways 2nd longest river system.
Sjoa River Features
* The Sjoa river has a drainage area of about 1450 km2. The river is approximately 98 km in length, including the 18km long Lake Gjende, it drains. The farthest source runs off Høgvaglbreen (glacier) into Høgvagltjørn (lake) of the Storåa confluence close to Leirvassbu, which is about 104 km by river from the mouth at the Gudbrandsdalslågen.
* In general it is a shallow & fast, small to medium sized river with strong continuous flow. Gradient is often consistent, with few calm pools in the lower half. Pooling or lakes tend to be in the upper half of the river. There are several waterfalls,large ledge rapids and potholed & obstructed gorges along its course.
* The riverbed can vary from sandy and small stoned in the calm pools and eddies, to the polished granite and sedimentary slated bedrock gorges of the steep and vertical waterfall sections, to uniform sports-ball sized boulders of the wider flood plains. Sharp shale is random, but ever present in the steeper sided gorges from collapsing mountain slides.
* Rapids can change from year to year due to it being a dynamic river that has a fair amount of bed-load distribution and rock movement. This is due to the near entire freezing of the flow and occasional isgangs (river ice avalanches) when the river ice sheet collapses under the weight of damming in the winter months, and/or due too flood conditions after heavy precipitation combined with warm weather melting snow in the highlands in the summer. Both of these natural phenomena's can move thousand of tons of bed-load and rock downriver during individual events.
* River water clarity & colour can vary from the classic emerald see-through low flows to the milky green-blue glacial releases from the Veo dam, or the brandy-like tannins after local rains. In high water, a murky and sandy suspension load is present. Flood waters are dark, muddy & debris strewn with wood & whole trees, and the ominous sound of rolling rocks is noticeably present.
* Water temperature ranges from about 2℃ in the Spring, up to 18℃ degrees in mid-summer and back down to 4/5℃ degrees celcius in the autumn months.
Sjoa flow and water levels
* If on the river, there is a physical gauge approximately 100 meters after Faukstad road bridge on river left. This will tell you the water level as metres above sea level, eg 351,25. Info is also electronically available through internet access at NVE`s web portal Sildre. Type Faukstad in the search field.
Vannstand (Stage), is the river level at this point measured as metres above sea level(m.a.s.l.). Vannføring (Discharge) is the data converted to flow, as cubic metres per second, and may give a better understanding of flow conditions for visiting river travellers.
* Approximate conversions.
m.a.s.l = m3/s
351.00 = 34 (low)
351.25 = 60 (low/med)
351.50 = 93 (medium)
351.75 = 130 (med/high)
352.00 = 175 (high)
352.50 = 275 (flood)
* Water levels can quickly change due to precipitation in the tributary valleys. Check the weather report as well as water levels if planning river trips.
Weather Report - Sjoa (mouth)
Weather Report - Gjende (source)
* Warning - although it has popular routes, low to medium flow levels are ideal for the Sjoa River. The Sjoa can vary anything between 10 m3/s (early spring low) and 954 m3/s (flood in 2011). Most sections of the river are often more difficult than it looks like for many paddlers. If planning to explore the length of the Sjoa privately by river, be well aware that there are several waterfalls with either small or no last chance escape eddies above. Some routes are within steep-walled gorges which can be continuous and unforgiving to swimmers. Paddling routes above your skill level, high water or flood conditions can result in not only the loss of your equipment and sense of humour. The Sjoa has a history of reminding river travellers who are over confident, less respectful or unaware .
Accommodation in the Sjoa Valley
Gjendesheim DNT Gjendesheim
Bessegen Fjellpark Maurvangen
Bessheim Fjellstue Hytter Øvre Sjødalsvatnet
Jotunheimen Caravan Camp Nedre Sjødalsvatnet
Sjodalen Hyttetun og Camping Tessanden
Hindsæter Hotel Tessanden
Randsverk Camping Randsverk
Jotunheimen Husky Lodge Randsverk
Weistad Kafe og Hytter Heidal
Nordre Ekre Harlaug Bru
Heidal Gjestgiveri Nedre Heidal
Go Rafting Nedre Heidal
Sjoa RaftingNedre Heidal
Heidal Rafting Sjoa
Sjoa Camping Sjoa
* In Norway - free camping, bathing, passage over private land, fishing & mooring of boats and other regulations falls under the Outdoor Recreation Act.
Activities & Courses
Rescue 3 Courses in Sjoa
Strie Strømmer Kayak Shop
Sjoa River Festival
Lake Gjende Ferry
* Kayakers & River Travellers touring between rivers in Norway that have Salmon are required to disinfect all paddling equipment with Virkon-S to prevent the spread of the Gyrodactylus salaris parasite. This can be purchased at Felleskjøpet farm shop (country-wide) or at Strie Strømmer kayak shop in Heidal.