About Elgafossen (Algafallet)
Elgafossen (or more accurately Elgåfossen in Norwegian and Älgafallet in Swedish) was a shared waterfall between Norway and Sweden.
In fact, its watercourse on a tributary of the Enningdalsälven called Elja actually defined parts of the Swedish-Norwegian border.
As you can tell from the photo above (and the rest of the pictures on this page), this 46m waterfall definitely held its own in the scenic department.
The height of the falls made it the highest such unregulated waterfall in the general Østfold (Norway) and Bohuslän (Sweden) counties.
When we made our visit, it featured a gushing flow with a tinge of brown as it might have either been in flood from recent rains, or it might drain tannin-laced peatlands further upstream.
The Border History at Elgåfossen
In the 14th century, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden were united as the Kalmar Union, but Sweden pulled out in 1523.
This left a Denmark-Norway rule with Norway taking a lesser position as Danish rule was more powerful at the time.
According to the signs here, after a series of conflicts between Sweden and Denmark-Norway, the losing Danish side wound up ceded some of Norway’s border provinces to Sweden.
This included Bohuslän in 1658, which caused the Elja and the Elgåfossen to sit right at the international boundary.
To the people living here, this meant that neighbors once under common rule suddenly became cross-border enemies.
The signs here even told of a farmer named Anders Jensen Gribsrød, who was killed as punishment for transporting oak timber across the border in 1743.
Although relations were tense between the 17th and 19th centuries, in the WWII years of 1940-1945 (during the German occupation of Norway), Norwegian and Swedish locals had been more supportive of each other.
Again, according to the signs here, the inter-border mixing of populations was best indicated in a cross-border marriage between a Norwegian girl and a Swedish man right above Elgåfossen.
In our visit to the falls in 2019, it seemed like the cultural blurring of international boundaries appears to persist to this day.
Further upstream of the falls, we crossed a bridge over the Elja with both Norwegian and Swedish flag symbols on display side-by-side.
The Pilgrim’s Way
Technically, the Pilgrim’s Way of St Olav (St Olavsleden) was an east-west route that started from Sundsvall, Sweden by the Baltic Sea to Trondheim, Norway in the west via Östersund, Sweden.
It covered a 580km stretch that essentially acted as the Scandinavian version of El Camino de Santiago de Compostela across Northern Spain.
That said, Julie and I noticed many of the same pilgrim icons and trail signage around Elgåfossen.
Apparently, there also existed pilgrims who took the so-called Borg Path from the national border around this waterfall to Oslo and ultimately to Trondheim’s Nidaros Cathedral.
Thus, they considered this somewhat obscure route (if not for the waterfall) as part of the Pilgrim Way.
From a well-signed and modestly-sized car park area (see directions, we followed an obvious footpath leading past some picnic tables and lawn area towards some signs as well as a restroom facility.
Given that it had been drizzling during our visit, we didn’t linger around too much for the picnicking.
However, we did notice the gushing Elgåfossen in the distance after peering through some of the foliage openings.
We then crossed a sturdy bridge over the Enningdalselva before following a well-defined footpath flanked by lush green vegetation with lots of wildflowers.
After we followed the trail along the Elja River (a tributary of Enningdalselva), we encountered a trail junction flanked by signs and some historical relics.
Among these relics included the foundations of some mills as well as at least one mill stone.
In addition, we spotted an old cow house as well as some picnic tables as well as a long bridge over the Elja with a frontal view of Elgafossen.
Going to the Top of Elgåfossen
While we could have contented ourselves with the frontal views and be done with it, I did do some additional exploring as the footpath continued to climb alongside the waterfall.
As the footpath became increasingly steep, I did manage to find some outcrops providing downstream views as well as intriguing close-up profile views of the impressive waterfall.
I even noticed some floodlight poles, which suggested to me that they might light up this waterfall at night.
The footpath continued climbing steeply as it skirted the foot of a vertical cliff before going up more steps to get right up to the brink of Elgafossen at perhaps about 100m beyond the historical relics below.
The footpath continued further upstream towards the friendship bridge, where I then crossed over and went to the brink of Elgafossen on the Swedish side.
From the brinks of either side of the waterfall, I enjoyed commanding views of the Enningdal Valley below.
However, I didn’t proceed any further as this was my turnaround point.
Overall, we had spent a little over an hour away from the car, which included my excursion to the top of the falls.
That said, I could easily envision a visit here could take as little as a half-hour or much longer if one wished to explore further upstream along the Elja.
Elgåfossen is shared between the municipalities of Halden in Norway’s Østfold County and Tanum in Sweden’s Västra Götaland County (where Bohuslän County was incorporated). For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their respective local government websites here (Norway) and here (Sweden).
While this had the benefit of avoiding the road tolls on the more coastal E6 highway, it did feel as if we had passed through a series of tiny hamlets and camping spots without any obvious towns that could have served as a base for a visit here.
Thus, we’ll describe the driving directions as if we had exited from the E6 at these towns.
The Southern Approach from Tanum to Elgafossen
During our long drive north from Gothenburg, we ultimately got off the E6 highway at exit 105, where it junctioned with the Route 163 east. This was about 128km north of Gothenburg.
Once on the Route 163, we headed east for about 14km on Bullarevägen as Route 163 then intersected with the Route 165 near the hamlet of Knaverstad.
Turning left to go north on Route 165, we then took it for about a little over 13km to the car park on the right for Elgåfossen. It sat roughly under 1km north of where Route 165 crossed the Norway-Sweden border.
Note that Route 165 became Route 22 once in Norway.
Overall, the stretch of road between Tanum and the waterfall car park took us under 30 minutes.
The Northern Approach from Halden to Elgafossen
Coming in the opposite direction, we would get off the E6 at Halden at exit 2 to get onto Route 21 due east.
After following the busy Route 21 for roughly 8km, we then reached a roundabout where the first exit on the right led onto the Route 22.
We then followed the Route 22 for roughly 32km south until we reached the signed car park for Elgafossen on the left.
Although we drove this stretch in the opposite direction, it took us around 45 minutes to do it (mostly due to stoplights and heavy traffic in Halden).
Finally, for some geographical context, Halden, Norway was about 57km (about 45 minutes drive on the E6) or 65km (a little over an hour’s drive on the non-toll roads) north of Tanum, 32km (about 30 minutes drive) south of Sarpsborg, Norway, 116km (about 90 minutes drive) south of Oslo, Norway, and 190km (2 hours drive) north of Gothenburg, Sweden.
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