Sjoa River - Source to Mouth

* The Sjoa´s glacier fed primary sources (Storåa, Vesleåa, Muru and Leirungsåa) arise in the south-eastern Jotunheimen mountain range and pool in the 18 km long Lake Gjende.

* The cool emerald waters flow swiftly at first on departing Gjende for the first couple of kilometres to a little ways past Maurvangen before entering the shallow 6km long Øvre Sjødalsvatnet. A few hundred metres of channelled descent then takes the flow into the smallish nearly oval shaped Nedre Sjødalsvatnet.

* The northern exit lines the river intoa short swift channel with rapids before descending steeply through a series of slides & falls and the narrow, pot-holed drop under the Griningsdalbru.

* After a series of rapids, the river eases up soon after the Russa confluence on river left and meanders wide and calm over a sandyriverbed and around long grassed & wooded islands for several kilometres.

* The narrowing of the river soon after Hindvangen is the warning that the waterfall, Stuttgongfossen is approaching followed by a series of ledges and small drops before calming again into the meandering flows at Steinholet.

* After a few islands the river narrows and swiftly picks up speed through a continuous section of rapids that goes past the Veo confluence. After a short distance in slower water, a largish triangular shaped rock mid-river marks that Ovre Tråsåfossen is approaching.

* The river now moves away from the R51 and at a sharp sweeping bend to the right with a 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 a kilometre brings you to a committing narrow canyon wherethe Sjollibekken waterfall spills in on river right.

* The forested river walls open up to reveal several bedrock rapids of the Brurusti section that lead into the last big rapid, Nedre Tråsåfossen.

* The river valley widens for several kilometers over a combination of bed-load and bedrock with the wind turbine at Luseter in the high distance.

* At the confluence with the Rinda 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. ThePrestgard, 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 1453 km2, and is approximately 70 km in length. 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 glacier fed low flows to the milky green-blue 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

* There is a physical/electronic gauge approximately 100 meters after Faukstad Bridge on river left, which also has web access at

Click Stasjonoversikt then Oppland then Sel then Faukstad then Stasjonsinfo

Vannstand, is the river level at this point measured as metres above sea level. Vannføring is the data converted to flow, as cubic metres per second, and may give a better understanding of flow conditions for visiting river travellers. The Sjoa can vary anything between 5 m3/s (early spring low) and 954 m3/s (flood in 2011).

* Approximate conversions.

m.a.s.l = m3/s

351.00 = 36 - low

351.50 = 91 - medium

352.00 = 170 - high

352.50 = 271 - flood

* Warning, although it has popular routes, low to medium flow levels are ideal for the Sjoa River. Most of the river is often more difficult than it looks for many paddlers.The Sjoa has a history of reminding the less respectful or unaware of river travellers.

* 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.

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

Jotunheimen Adventure- Randsverk

Randsverk Camping- Randsverk

Jotunheimen Feriesenter- Randsverk

Weistad Kafe og Hytter- Heidal

Nordre Ekre- Harlaug Bru

Heidal Hotel- Nedre Heidal

Go Rafting- Nedre Heidal

Sjoa Rafting- Nedre Heidal

Sjoa Kayak Camp- Riksannlegget

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.

Gyrodactylus salaris

* 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.