Bushmans River – Weenen to Tugela River

This is the best section of the Bushmans River, but seldom paddled as it is not well-known.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 2 to low 4
  • Length: 19km
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Type: Fairly continuous
  • Put-in: From Weenen, first dirt road to left without a gate. Drive down about 1km to causeway over river.
  • Take-out: Causeway, on the way to Darkest Africa campsite
  • Dam controlled: Wagendrift Dam
  • Permits: No

MAP 38

From the put-in the river is pretty flat with small class 1 rapids. After about 3km (although it feels longer) the river turns to the left and enters a kind of a gorge. The rapids become technical class 3 and very continuous. The rapids are made up of smooth shelves, resulting in a couple of straightforward drops. This is a good section to practice your boofing skills.

One difficult rapid (class 4) is encountered that should be scouted. It is very tight, similar to the rapids on the Wit in the Cape. This warning rapid is amphitheater-shaped, on the right side of the river. Not far after this rapid, maybe 1 or 2 km, is a serious waterfall that should definitely be portaged. The fall is about 30m high, with a rapid on top that leads into it. Make sure to get out early enough and scramble down on the left bank. There is a beach at the bottom of the falls, which is just over halfway on the trip, making for an ideal lunch spot.

After the waterfall the character of the river changes from ledges to boulders, and more pool-drop; it is a bit more difficult than the first section but still in the class 3 range, maybe low 4. A few kilometers below the falls the Darkest Africa camp spot is past, which is on the right bank. The river flattens out again over the last few kilometers to the take out.

The camp spot can also serve as a take out point if one should camp there, but it is not worthwhile otherwise as the road going to the camp spot is almost a 4×4 track. The camp itself is one of those really wild sites with very few facilities, making for a true wilderness experience. It is possible to do a hike to the waterfall from the camp. When camping there a short trip to the take out point can also be undertaken.

This river description is taken from my book “Run the Rivers of Southern Africa”.
If you have any pictures or recent information on this section of river to share, please contact me:
I appreciate any contributions to keep this content up-to-date.