Ash River

The As (Ash) River is strictly for experienced paddlers with bombproof rolls. It is cold and fast with bad strainers, low-level bridges and weirs. The question might arise as to why anyone would want to paddle it; the answer being for nothing else but nice playwaves and some fun rapids.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 19km
  • Duration: 4 hours
  • Type: Fast, narrow, steep at places
  • Put-in: At car park next to river where outfall is. Take dirt road from R711.
  • Take-out: R711 bridge
  • Dam controlled: Caledon Tunnel Transfer
  • Permits: None

The Ash used to be a small, unknown stream, but since the waters of the Lesotho Highlands Project were pumped into it, a narrow, mostly continuous river emerged. It is changing all the time, as the banks consist of clay and are not stable enough to withstand the sudden flow of water.

The put-in is just below a weir at the outfall. On the way down, look out for a 25m high weir (soon after put-in), two low-level bridges, a broken bridge, a few more weirs, a tree across the water, a 2m fall, and very bad strainers. The section from the second low-level bridge to the take-out at the R711 has the best rapids for playboating, and also a nasty class 5 rapid. The river becomes easier and less dangerous after the R711, downstream towards the N5.

Keep in mind that the above description might not be applicable in a few years time, as new weirs and channels are built. There are also plans to develop parts of the section into an artificial Olympic-style slalom and freestyle course if the water does not get piped away to the Vaal Dam. This will be a tremendous boost for the paddling scene, and at the same time will be of economical value to the locals.

This river description is taken from my book “Run the Rivers of Southern Africa”.
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