When the ice retreated from the fjords, running water became the most important factor in shaping the landscape, and it is still an important part of how we experience and enjoy the landscape throughout the year.
Rivers gradually erode the hard bedrock and create canyons and gorges, and joints facilitate
the erosion. Weathered material and unconsolidated debris
from avalanches and rock falls on the mountainsides are transported into the fjords by the water. In the winter the rivers freeze over and large columns of ice form up along the mountain sides.
The area has an abundance of rivers, streams and waterfalls that have not been developed for electricity generation or exploited in other ways. Depending on the amount of precipitation and the season these vary greatly: from being almost invisible, to flowing gently and quietly to dramatic, excavating, noisy and powerful waterways. The colour of the water changes accordingly, depending on the season and the area. Rivers transporting melt water are grey from all the loose soil and stone they are carrying with them to the fjord, which becomes turquoise. Rivers flowing through areas with hard anorthositic bedrock are crystal clear and almost without nutrients (anorthositic bedrock consists of metamorphic mixed rock, i.e. rock transformed by pressure and heat.
With all the narrow valleys and large elevation, the fjord landscape in the west of Norway has great potential for the production of hydroelectricity through harnessing the power of rivers and waterfalls. The rivers in this world heritage area are intact, unlike several other rivers in the west of Norway which have been exploited for development, in some places on a vast scale. The great significance which the rivers have for shaping the landscape, for the biological diversity and as an aesthetic element, is secured for posterity since the area has obtained status as world heritage area.
The many waterfalls are spectacular landscape elements where they cascade down the mountainsides on their way to the fjords. Some dissolve into mist before they reach the ground, others thunderingly plunge into deep ravines along the fjord, and disappear. A few waterfalls cascade in free fall from a great height directly into the fjord.
Geology and landforms
- How the glaciers formed the landscape
- A living landscape – The Quaternary (1.8–0 million years)
- Landslides and Avalanches
- Rivers and waterfalls
- From open ocean to narrow fjord
- A history written in stone (1600–100 million years)
- New rising – tertiary (65–2.5 million years)
- The geology of the bedrock is the key to history