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Landscape and geology

The landscape is naturally beautiful and dramatic and hasn’t been influenced by modern technical encroachments. Visitors can experience wide valleys, treeless mountains and a distinctive fjord landscape. Stølsheimen is located in the wettest area of Western Norway.




Stølsheimen verneområdestyre
Statsforvaltaren i Vestland
Njøsavegen 2
6863 Leikanger, Norway
E: sfvlpost@statsforvalteren.no



From fjords to mountains

The transition from fjord to mountain creates great natural variations; from fertile phyllite to hard gneiss, and from sheltered coves to windswept ridges. Together with many lakes, long rivers and high waterfalls, this provides visitors with many experiences of nature.

The lowland landscapes are lush with dense vegetation. But as you move higher up in the landscape, the trees and larger shrubs begin to thin out. Only lichen and a few other hardy plants manage to survive on the uppermost, windswept ridges. The large amounts of precipitation mean that it is never far between lakes and rivers. Visitors can also experience fantastic waterfalls gushing over the mountainsides. All this variety provides a diverse experience of nature.

Person viewing the landscape.

Unexploited nature

Approximately 94% of the protected landscape is an unexploited natural area. This means that 94% of the area is located more than 1 km from the nearest major technical encroachments, such as roads, regulated bodies of water, power lines or permanent habitation. Large natural areas like this are important as habitat and corridors for species that require a lot of space such as wild reindeer. These areas are home to many individuals of the same species, therefore the chances of these species surviving increase. Large areas of natural environment are a lot better at withstanding natural disasters such as floods, storms and droughts. They are important regarding nature’s ability to adapt to climate change. Areas such as Stølsheimen that have steep terrain and large differences in elevation are particularly important. This is because many species that are negatively affected by a warmer climate can access a short ‘escape route’ to lower temperatures higher up in the terrain.

Marshlands and wetlands

Stølsheimen has large marshland and wetland areas. They are important natural habitats that are home to many plants and animals, and serve as a resting place for birds. Marshland is also important in that it stores CO2, purifies water and reduces the effect of floods. Marshland consists of wet areas where the decomposition of organic matter is so slow that partially transformed material accumulates. This is what we call peat. At Solrenningen, the soil consists of a 4 to 5 meter thick layer of peat.

Marshland is particularly vulnerable to disturbances. In an effort to avoid getting their feet wet, people are constantly making new and wider trails. If one is going to open a marshland area to visitors, there may soon be a need for extensive adaptations involving stones and/or wooden planks (walkways) for people to walk on.

Summer mountain farm.
Alpine catchfly.


Stølsheimen Protected Landscape is divided into two by a distinct boundary of bedrock running north-south. This boundary is something that can be clearly seen in the landscape formations, the soil and the flora. In the west, there is an area of gneiss that has rounded formations, U-shaped valleys, few geological deposits and is poor in flora. A area of phyllite lies to the east where there are a lot more deposits and the flora is much more abundant. The area near Raudberg consists of serpentinite and contains large deposits of talc. Northeast of Raudberget, there are lines of rust colored boulders stretching 5 to 6 km. These lines indicate the prevailing direction in which the ice moved during the last Ice Age.

The geology influences the types of plants that grow in the different areas. In the area consisting of gneiss rock, there is a poor diversity of mountain vegetation and nutrient poor marshland. The area of phyllite has a lot more nutrients. The vegetation there includes species that are more demanding. The serpentinite area of Raudberg is home to very special flora that only includes a few species, such as red Alpine catchfly.