Fossvogsbakkar, Reykjavik

Fossvogsbakkar was protected as a natural monument in 1999. The area has rare geological formations in Reykjavík's geological history, and Iceland's as a whole, the Fossvogslög, and the conservation value of the area lies in their protection.

Natural monuments are natural formations that are important to preserve for their scientific value, beauty or unique characteristics. The aim of the protection of Fossvogsbakkar is the preservation of rare geological formations in the area.

Geological Formations

The Fossvogsbakkar sediment, part of the so-called Fossvogslög, are believed to be around 11,000 years old, or from the end of the last ice age. They are thought to have formed during one of the last warm periods after the melting of glaciers had led to a significant rise in sea level. The layers are around 2 km long by the coastline and 5 m thick where thickest. In some places, however, they have almost disappeared due to sea erosion.

The sediment layers lie on top of a dolerite rock thought to have formed 100–200 thousand years ago. The bottom layer of the sediments is tillite, which is formed from glacial drift and indicates the presence of a glacier in the area that has receded. The next layers are sea sediments, mostly fine silt and mudstone layers, which indicates that there were shallow waters in the area. The sea sediments contain large amounts of fossils, especially mollusc shells. On top of the sea sediments, tillite is again found, indicating that the last glacial period of the ice age took place after the sedimentary layers formed. From this, it can be deduced that important evidence can be obtained about climate change, landscape formation, sea levels and shallow water ecosystems.

It is unique that important geological formations, such as those found in Fossvogsbakkar, are located in the middle of a city and for the most part very accessible and visible.

Flora and Fauna

The area has diverse vegetation that has undergone a lot of changes in recent years and decades due to the spread of aggressive species and the colonization of rogues from gardens. Since the sediments are not very steep and form a kind of landslide, they are quite grown with various vegetation, especially grass species, but also larger vegetation. On the ridges of the sediment layers, vegetation is so large in places that it obscures the geological formations. Wolf bean (lupine) is common in those areas.

The vegetation in Fossvogsbakkar is host to diverse animalcule life, and birdlife in the area is robust, particularly on the beach.

Cultural Heritage

Relics from WWII can be found by Fossvogsbakkar. Specifically, these are building foundations belonging to a military camp, Camp Maple Leaf. East of the camp are ruins built in 1944 and are still clearly visible.

The natural monument covers an area of 17.8 ha.

Useful Information

The nature reserve Fossvogsbakkar covers a 2 km long shoreline from the bottom of Fossvogur where the town boundaries of Reykjavík and Kópavogur meet to west to a line that is 5 m from the Reykjavik Heating Utility’s waste pipeline in Nauthólsvík.

The best vehicle access to the area is from Nauthólsvegur in the west and Suðurhlíð in the east. Footpaths run from Öskjuhlíð and Fossvogskirkjugarður cemetery down to the area from the north. The foot and cycling path that runs to the east-west along Skerjafjörður is partly within the nature reserve.

It is easiest to examine the strata by walking down to Fossvogur during low tide, but they are also quite visible when standing on the banks. However, it can be dangerous to stand too close to the edge because the sediments are considerably eroded by sea intrusion in many places.

Rules of Conduct:

  • Any construction or disturbance of the ground that might change the appearance or nature of the area is subject to permission from the Environment Agency. The City of Reykjavík, however, has the authority to do necessary construction work related to the maintenance of the Fossvogur drains and to prevent erosion on the banks, if necessary.
  • Disposing of soil materials, garbage and waste is prohibited in the area.
  • General access to the area is allowed provided that visitors conduct themselves properly.

Endangered Areas

Fossvogsbakkar was protected as a natural monument in 1999 with notice no. 326/1999 in the Official Journal B.

The area is managed by the City of Reykjavík in accordance with the management agreement from June 2015. In conjunction with the signing of this management agreement, a protection and operations plan for the area, valid until 2024, was approved.