No Place Like Home: The Raundalselva River


There is something special about the Raundalselva. From the mountains, it cuts its way through the Raundalen Valley and winds all the way down to Vangsvatnet in the centre of Voss. The water is crystal blue and situated in a striking landscape of snowcapped mountains (at least in springtime) and vibrant green forests.

The Raundalselva is a kayaker’s paradise. It has something for everyone at every flow, from open roadside sections to locked-in gorges. Very rarely does the river dry up completely, and it is only during the depths of winter that the Voss locals hang up their kayaking gear in favour of skis. Other than that, you will almost always convince someone to get on the river with you, on any day of the week. At high spring flows or after heavy rain you can hold your own Stakeout session at Milky Wave (Canada eat your heart out!) And when the river drops later in the summer you have Train Station and Marine Canyon to keep you entertained.

It is not just kayakers that find delight in the river. On a hot summer’s day, you’ll be hard pressed to find a spot on the bank at Bjørke as locals and tourists alike sunbathe, swim, picnic and fish. Despite its popularity and importance to the local culture and outdoor enthusiasts, the Raundalselva is once again under threat of hydropower, which will render the river almost useless for kayaking.

The first proposal for power development on the river was back in 1978, but after a huge conservation effort, the rivers around Voss received permanent protection due to their importance for natural diversity, cultural heritage and outdoor life. Unfortunately, “permanent” does not mean the same thing to everyone, and several development proposals have been submitted since. The most notable were in 2010, when the power company suggested that development could be “gentle” and still follow conservation, and again in 2016, when hydropower was proposed as a solution for flood protection.

These cases ended up being closed, and the council decided that alternative flood protection options should be perused before hydro development. However, after large floods hit the town in 2022, coupled with the recent energy crisis, the hydropower proposals are back on the table. To lose such an amazing river would be an absolute tragedy.

I first paddled on the Raundalselva in 2013, during my first visit to Norway. After an initial failed attempt to find the take-out when trying to decipher the English/German guidebooks, I put on the very misleadingly named “Play Run” section at 100 cms. I found the big volume nature of the run intimidating, given my fairly limited kayaking experience. I had never paddled something so large and pushy. However, the beauty of the river, the colour of the water and the scenery stuck in my mind much more than the nerves I felt or the pain of the hike out.

That summer, I kayaked on the upper reaches of the river on the Mjølfjell section, got my adrenaline rush on the Nosebreaker waterfall, and hiked out of Marine Canyon after putting on with a bit too much water for my first run down. I knew then I needed to come back.

Home has been a weird concept for me for many years. Originally from the UK, I left in 2016 to travel the world. I rarely lived anywhere for more than a few months, other than during the pandemic when I found myself “stuck” in Sjoa, Norway, for just over a year. Although I love traveling, living permanently on the road gets tiring, and I decided it was time to lay down some roots.

Although Sjoa is awesome in the summer, it was a bit too small in winter. I needed somewhere I could live year-round. Voss came to my mind, and so I packed my bags and moved here on the shortest day of the year. Kayaking was nothing more than a dream in those winter months, and I put my energy into learning to ski instead. After Easter, I headed back to the UK. Weddings and family parties kept me away for a month before I headed to mainland Europe for the start of the kayak festival season. I flew back to Norway at the start of June, feeling warmed up and ready to get my teeth into some whitewater.

After being back in Voss for a few days, we headed up to the Raundalselva to run the rafting and Play Run sections. The river was as high as I had ever paddled these sections, and I was a bit nervous. My nerves quickly dissolved after the first corner, and I remembered how much I love this section, especially at higher flows. The sun was shining, the level was prime and as I was flying off waves, I was thinking to myself that this is about as good as it gets. And that’s when it hit me. I was home.


Kayaking has taken Guest Contributor Beth Morgan around the world and back again—a few times over. Originally from the UK, after years of living out of a suitcase and teaching for World Class Academy, Beth now calls Voss, Norway, home. In addition to educating the youth and documenting other people’s best day ever, the 2019 AWP European Champion boasts top finishes in many of the sport’s biggest extreme races.

Editor’s note: All photos courtesy of Halvor Heggem. This article was first published in Kayak Session Magazine Issue #87.