Cultural landscape and history

The landscape shows traces of ancient hunting and trapping culture, where visitors can find animal pitfall traps and remnants of homesteads. In addition, the area has long traditions of pastoral grazing and mountain farming. The cultural history also includes old thoroughfares that run through Jotunheimen and the very first mountain pioneers. Today, visitors can experience a living cultural landscape, where hay is still made in the old meadows at Gjende lake and people continue to harvest the old fairy-tale forest in Utladalen.
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Nasjonalparkstyret for Jotunheimen og Utladalen
Statsforvaltaren i Innlandet
Postboks 987
N-2604 Lillehammer
E: sfinpost@statsforvalteren.no

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Trapping heritage sites

Hunters and fishers have been present in Jotunheimen for thousands of years. There are traces of homesteads that date back to 3000 BC at Gjende lake, Russvatnet lake, Tyinosen and in Koldedalen valley. Visitors can also see various cultural monuments, such as reindeer pitfall traps, hunting hides, overhanging rock shelters, and remnants of stone huts. Today, the animal pitfall traps and trapping sites remind us of a time when both wild reindeer and moose were an important part of local people’s basic diet. Trapping animals using pitfall traps ended in the 1800s when it was prohibited.

Pitfall.
People hiking.

Old roads

Between all the diverse cultural monuments in Jotunheimen, visitors can also find cairns that waymark old thoroughfares and the remnants of falcon trapping sites. The cairn-marked route over the Sognefjellet mountains between Lom and Luster was one of the main thoroughfares, but there were also other roads inside the protected area. These ran through Visdalen valley, Uradalen valley, over Storådalen valley and on to Bygdin, Tyin and Vang in Valdres. The route through Leirdalen valley, over Høgvaglen, towards Eidsbugarden and further on down to Valdres was very important. People traveled this route with large herds of cattle, and the route is paved over Høgvaglen.

Mountain farms and pastures are also important for the development of outdoor life in Jotunheimen

Jotunheimen has been an important cattle grazing area for many years, and mountain farming has existed in many places, such as at Gjendebu and at Memurubu (until approximately 1990). Many of the farms at Boverdalen in Lom had mountain pastures at Gjendebu around the early 1700s. The road to the mountain pastures was long. They walked up Visdalen valley, through Urdadalen valley, and then down Storådalen valley to get their animals to the grazing pastures. Every year, Storådalen Grazing Association transport their cattle to the lush mountain pastures at the western end of Gjende lake, and the mountain pastures at Gjendebu are cut annually. There are also some young goats that help keep the vegetation down in the cultural landscape.

As interest in outdoor activities increased during the 1800s, many mountain farms in Jotunheimen started to develop themselves into tourist companies, such as Gjendebu. In connection with guiding tourists in the mountains, shelters were built both on Galdhøgpiggen and on Glittertinden. Unfortunately, they don’t exist today, but the old stone shelter from 1899 stills stands on Surtningssue mountain (restored in 2008).

View form mountain top.
Sheep grazing.

A living cultural landscape

Harvesting tree leaves for fodder, haymaking and pastoral grazing have mainly formed the landscape in Utladalen, and visitors can see many species that are connected to the cultural landscape. Mountain farms have always been an important resource for the local farmers, and they influence the growth of vegetation – from the valley bottoms to the high mountains.

All farms and places in Utladalen had two farming pastures, a main farm where they lived and a pasture located higher in the mountains. In addition, farmers from other villages were entitled to graze their animals in Øvre Utladalen. Therefore, Utladalen is home to many cultural monuments and sites from recent times, such as mountain farms and hunting cabins. Today, Guridalen mountain pasture is an important grazing area for sheep, but there are also animals grazing at both Vetti and in the Avdalen valley. During the late summer, visitors can experience the farmers making hay there.

Safeguarding cultural monuments and cultural landscapes has been a strong focus for many years in Utladalen. Local trusts, associations, organizations and private individuals have all volunteered their efforts. You can read about how things are organized in Utladalen on the Trust’s website The Nature House of Utladalen.