Tännforsen, Sweden's largest waterfall
Long before skiers, hikers and cyclists found Åre, one of our most unique places to visit already existed. The Tännforsen Waterfall is part of the Indalsälven river, one of Sweden’s largest watercourses that sends volumes of mountain water down to the Baltic Sea. Twenty kilometers west of Åre, the water drops almost 40 meters down to Lake Noren, creating a 60-meter wide rushing wall that is a spectacle for many senses at all times of the year.
Worth a trip any time
Tännforsen, which is often called Sweden’s largest waterfall, is easy to visit and enjoy. In the winter, Tännforsen dresses up in a beautiful ice costume when it turns into a frozen waterfall. The ice can allow for an exciting walk into the waterfall. In May and June, the water flow is at its highest and it completely thunders the fall and the force is physically felt. At most, the flow during the spring flood is around 400 cubic meters of water per second. When the sun is high, lighting up Tännforsen, it creates a rainbow through the water vapour that forms in the waterfall. In the fall, it’s surrounded by clear autumn colours that, together with a blue sky and the foamy white water, offer the full range of colours.
An easy walk
From the parking lot at the old tourist station you can choose to walk down the right path towards the fall to experience approaching the waterfall downstream and face the thundering wall from the front, a powerful experience as it towers in front of one.
If you choose to walk the trail to the left from the tourist station, you will reach the river above the waterfall and follow along in the direction of the water and first see how it falls over the edge, something that usually tickles your stomach. No matter which direction you go, just follow the marked trail and you’ll return to the parking lot. Along the path there are benches to sit on, bring something warm to drink and sit for a while and take in both the waterfall and the magic forest that surrounds it.
Magical forest with unique species
The nature around Tännforsen is rich in a number of lichens, mosses and other unusual species, which has given it a protection as a Natura 2000 area. Thanks to the constantly humid air, several endangered species thrive right here. There are as many as 21 red-listed tree-living lichens in the area around the rapids, even a group of short wings (a type of beetle) are specifically associated here. The lichens that clothe the trees with a fine beard contribute to the magical forest feeling in the area. Pick up one of the moss covered stones and have a look, could it be a stone troll?
A place in history
Tännforsen began to become a tourist destination as early as 1835, when the Skalstugevägen road to Norway was inaugurated by King Karl XIV Johan. Visitors with time and money to travel and experience new places could then take a boat trip over to the north side of the fall on the quieter Lake Tännsjön upstream from the rapids. The Swedish Tourist Association took the next step and built not only a motorway up to the waterfall Tännforsen but also a tourist station in 1906. It then grew as a tourist destination and the guest book at the tourist station was filling up with stories of guests’ experiences.
The summer of 1953 the waterfall was challenged by two adventurers from Järpen. The goal of Calle Thoresson was to ride a bicycle across the ridge on a rope, with the help of Kjell Zetterström hanging in a swing under the bike and rope, as balance and counterweight. The drama was reinforced by the fact that the rope slackened just as they were in the middle of the fall and Kjell partially came under water. In spite of this, Calle managed to keep the balance and they managed and prevailed to the audience’s relief.
Older photographs of Tännforsen have a large stone in the middle of the waterfall. It was the Björnstenen (The Bear Stone), named after the story that a bear would once cross the waterfall but got stuck in the middle. The boulder came off suddenly during the spring flood in 1992, without anyone seeing.
Like many other waterfalls, Tännforsen has been threatened by hydropower expansion. The last time that happened was during the 1940s when the Swedish National Water Board wanted to curb the water. People living in the area protested and did not want the waterfall to be wiped out and silenced. Strong resistance was made and in 1971 the waterfall was protected as a nature reserve with the purpose of preserving one of Sweden’s largest undeveloped waterfalls. Thanks to their efforts, the area is still a very popular tourist destination.
Last updated 2 March 2020