The big waters of Sweden.
Storforsen rapids are one of the biggest and most impressive rapids in Europe, with an average flow of 250.000 l/s, going up to as high as 870.000 l/s after the winter due to all the melting snow. The name simply means large water in Swedish and they truly make for an imposing sight. The rapids are formed by the Pite river, stretching across a total of 5 km, and located in Norrbotten (North Bothnia), Sweden.
I got to visit Storforsen as part of a field trip during my studies in Sweden in 2019, on one of the early summer days, which was surprisingly warm and sunny, even though there were still patches of snow on the water. Since not all of us could fit in the car we had available, half of us had to go by bus (totally doable, see my instructions on how to get there at the end of the post). We had a picnic on the river bank below the recently renovated Storforsen hotel, before heading up the trail to admire the rapids. We also had lunch at the hotel 2 hours later, as it seems our professor was quite determined to feed us to death that day, but luckily student stomach is a thing (the ability to eat any quantity of free food when available and eating less the following days) and I am definitely not one to ever complain about delicious free food.
The rapids from afar and some surroundings
The water flow was quite high, so the main rapids were particularly massive and astonishingly loud. Apparently the total fall of the main rapids is about 80 meters, or in the words of our professor “there is more water, not much fall”, however the sheer quantity of the water rushing past is more than impressive enough by itself. You can check it out for yourself in the videos and photos below.
Back in the day the rapids were used to transport logs, while today the entire area of Storforsen is a nature reserve, featuring not only the main rapids, but also lots of smaller cascades and waterfalls, making the landscape appear positively Icelandic. There are trails criss-crossing the beautiful nature, but it is definitely more fun to walk on the stones among the smaller rapids and streams.
Impressions of Storforsen
I’m told the area is a very popular picnic spot in the summer, with some people even swimming in the calmer water areas, and it was easy to see why. We certainly enjoyed catching the rare sunrays after the long Swedish winter and, since we were visiting so early in the season, we pretty much had the entire reserve to ourselves, with only a few other visitors here and there. We got to enjoy our post-lunch ice creams in peace (there’s a small souvenir shop at the top of the main rapids, which also features a taxidermy room) and take some amazing photos when the sun came out, before heading back to Luleå.
Souvenir shop taxidermy + more amazing scenery
Getting there: You can reach Storforsen by bus from both Luleå and Piteå, the two major cities in the area. The closest nearby town is Älvsbyn, about 40 km away, where you will likely have to change the bus, depending on where you are coming from. The bus stop is right at the Storforsen hotel, located at the start of the Storforsen nature reserve, where there is also a parking lot, but it is not that large, so it might be full during the season. There is another parking lot at the top of the trail to the main rapids, where the souvenir shop is located.
There is no entrance fee to the nature reserve and you can see the rapids from the bus stop. From there you can follow the easy, fenced trail leading up along the main rapids and there’s plenty of picnic spots with firepits along the way.