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Chris Burkard Travel #6
Halendid: The Highlands Project
For 10 years I have harbored an obsession with the rivers in Iceland. I never truly understood this obsession, only that these rivers called to me more than any other subject I’ve documented. I have spent many nights thinking about them, dreaming about them, devising new ways to get back to Iceland for another flight above these natural wonders.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
The rivers themselves are one of the more dramatic and interesting subjects I’ve ever had the opportunity to document. When combined with the expansive Icelandic landscapes, it’s a photographers dream. I would rent a small plane out of Reykjavik and spend hours flying above the rivers, capturing these abstract patterns. Many flights later, and a greater part of my income spent documenting these rivers, I've found a purpose for my obsession.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
Chris Burkard Travel #6
HALENDID UNTAMED
The interior of Iceland is usually referred to as the central highlands or as the locals call it: Halendid, which translates to “Highlands” in Icelandic. Considered one of the last great wilderness areas in all of Europe, this area covers nearly 40,000 square kilometers, and is one of the last untamed regions on earth. Few Icelanders, let alone westerners, have ever explored this region. Halendid contains high concentrations of waterfalls, volcanoes, glaciers, and rivers. Large expanses of black sand, lava fields, and fragile vegetation are found throughout the region.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
Chris Burkard Travel #6
Still, the one feature that has always drawn me back to this region is the rivers. These rivers carry glacial runoff and sediment from the interior of the island to the ocean. Along the way, this mix of minerals and water produces dramatic colors, complex systems, and vibrant patterns.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
Chris Burkard Travel #6
With the exception of the winter months, these rivers run all year. And while they are always a sight to behold, when the river flow is strong enough, all these smaller rivers flow and feed into one larger stream. At the same time, this single stream breaks off into smaller rivers that eventually feed back into the main bend. The exchange is mind boggling, nearly impossible to explain in words. Even as you see it happening, you can't quite comprehend what is occurring. And that is exactly what makes it so beautiful to witness.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
Chris Burkard Travel #6
CONSERVATION VS. PRESERVATION
Essentially, conservation strives for the proper use of nature, while preservation strives to protect nature from use.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
Chris Burkard Travel #6
RIVERS UNDER SIEGE
There has been a recent movement to establish a series of hydroelectric dams in the Highlands. This could destroy these natural wonders. My hope is that my obsession and the work I’ve created will help inspire people to dedicate their time and attention to protecting these fragile rivers. Our collective goal is to support the establishment of an Icelandic National Park that would preserve them forever.

There is an initiative to do just this which can be found here: Protect the Highland. I’ve begun work on a book that follows these rivers from their glacial inception all the way to the ocean. By sharing my experiences and unique perspective of these rivers, I hope to inspire people to preserve this beautiful landscape and these awe-inspiring rivers for future generations to experience.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
LET THE WILD INSPIRE
I’ve always taken a rather unique stance on conservation. I’d rather have people see a photo of a place online or in a magazine and be so inspired to see it that they care about it. Even if it simply means they drive up to the place, selfie stick in hand, and post about it on Instagram. While many contend this sort of behavior is ruining the solitude and beauty of these places, I can see both sides of the argument: the reality is that visitors documenting untamed beauty are usually the best protection for these wild spaces. The more people that experience the beauty of this wilderness, the better. Things people care about don’t disappear easily.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
I used to believe that in order to be a conservationist, you had to be an old rich guy, wearing white khakis and spectacles, while carrying around a notebook everywhere. But recently, I’ve begun to realize it’s actually much simpler than that: all you have to do is care about something. We are all conservationists. If we share our perspective on a subject and inspire people to care about it, we become advocates and conservationists for its preservation.

With that in mind, I’m compelled to share the beauty I’ve witnessed in the interior of Iceland.
Chris Burkard Travel #6
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
You can help protect the Highland. Visit the Halendid site and sign the Petition to Protect the Icelandic Highlands. But even more importantly, share this post and these photos and be an advocate for this beautiful wilderness, and your own wild obsession.
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