Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon has become one of the most popular stretches to paddle for both kayakers and commercial rafters. The canyon – the third largest in the world – is one of the natural wonders of the country, and a trip down this river offers a different view on the awesome scenery. The clear water is also something to appreciate if you are used to the sediment-enriched water found in most rivers on the sub-continent.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, croc
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Length: 9km
  • Duration: 3 hours to full day
  • Type: Pool-drop, some long rapids. Canyon.
  • Put-in: Mariepskop campsite
  • Take-out: Blydepoort Dam
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: Yes, arranged via commercial operators
  • Commercial operators: Blyde Adventure Centre, Induna Adventures

MAP 50

This whole section is part of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve – ensuring pristine flora – and permits have to be obtained in order to gain access to the river. A concession has been granted to a couple of commercial operators, and kayakers wanting to do this trip have to contact one of the operators to make an arrangement. The secluded campsite at the put-in is managed by the Mariepskop Forestry, for which bookings should be made in advance. A two-day trip can also be booked with the commercial operators, with an overnight stop at a hut.

Most of the rapids are technical class 2 to 3, with some fairly continuous sections. The rocks are mostly smooth, making swims not too bad for the clients. A couple of more challenging rapids are found just beyond halfway. Some of these are compulsory portages for commercial clients, but competent paddlers will enjoy running them. The more serious rapids flaunt names like Island Rapid, Log Waterfall, Alice’s Staircase, Mark’s Drop, Curtain Falls and Amagluglug. They are all steep and intimidating, and make good footage. The natural weir just below Mark’s Drop should be portaged at all but very low levels.

The trip ends on the Blyde Dam, where a motorised craft meets the group to spare them a 4km paddle across the dam. Kayakers doing the trip without joining a commercial group (but still arranged with a commercial operator and accompanied by an APA guide) normally have to paddle across the dam to the take-out point. The dam is home to a couple of hippos and lots of crocodiles, some of which are massive, but no attacks have been recorded yet. The trip across the dam is an experience in itself, offering stunning views of the surroundings.

A much more relaxed trip is also offered by Blyde Adventure Centre below the Blydepoort Dam.

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