Crocodile River – Gorge

This gorge has some of the most dangerous rapids in the country. The N4 runs next to it on the northern side and a railway line with its service road on the southern side, but the vegetation is so thick that you don’t notice it. Also keep in mind that the flat sections near the two bridges are likely to have some hippos in it.Ideal for: Kayak

Grade: 3 to 5
Length: 15km
Duration: 4 to 5 hours
Type: Short steep technical rapids
Put-in: Bridge of N4, or further downstream reachable from the railway service road
Take-out: Bridge of N4, or before that at any of the rest areas on the N4
Dam controlled: Kwena Dam, but Elands River and other tributaries join below dam
Permits: None

MAP 48

Most of the rapids can be seen from the different rest areas along the N4, but don’t be fooled by their appearance. They look like normal technical rapids with a couple of small boulders strewn between, but once on the water, you will be dwarfed by the house-sized boulders interspersing the whole course of the river. The water goes underneath, between and over these massive boulders, making for very technical rapids with some big drops and lots of siphons and undercuts.

The section starts with pretty easy rapids with long pools in between. They gradually become more difficult until the really big boulders come into sight. From here on the serious stuff awaits the competent paddler; at the same time it will be a not-so-competent paddler’s worst nightmare. It is impossible to describe any lines, as the river is wide with different runnable lines at different water levels. After the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) rapids, a high weir spans the river. At low water levels it is possible to shoot down on the extreme right, but take the time to scout first. At any other level, portage on the left.

Some more difficult rapids wait just beyond the weir before the river flattens out a bit. The service road on the right has been washed away just beyond the weir. It is possible to end the trip here, but at least shoot the three rapids following the weir and then walk back to the road. There is also a dirt road going down from the N4 to the weir, on the other side of the river, but it is difficult to find if you don’t know exactly where it is.

A long section of moderate rapids follows before the gradient picks up again. This section is similar to the rapids close to the weir. The rapids are difficult and extremely dangerous, but if you have made it to the weir, you will probably be able to handle what the river throws at you now. Easier rapids with longer flat pools follow this serious section. Keep going to the next bridge or bash through the bush on river left to the N4, where your pickup vehicle can wait at one of the rest areas.

The really difficult sections are short, but it must be emphasised that this is a dangerous gorge due to the many siphons, and not to be attempted by paddlers who don’t have ample experience. For those paddlers capable of running the gorge, it will be a rewarding trip.

Detailed trip report on Adrian Tregoning’s blog: Crocodile Gorge – Hippos, a close brush with death

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