Crocodile River – Kwena Dam to Montrose

The Crocodile is one of the major rivers in Mpumalanga. It is fed by lots of small tributaries and also the Elands River. It runs into the Komati River just short of the Mozambique border. The stretches below Montrose are inhabited by herds of hippo, and apart from the gorge, should not be paddled by sensible people (some might argue that the gorge should in any case not be run by sensible people).

The section described here is the course of the annual Lowveld Crocodile Marathon, held over two days. It is characterised by lots of weirs, low-level bridges and trees, for which one should be on the lookout. The description below applies for a typical race level of 10 cumecs, as supplied by Kwena Dam.Ideal for: K1

  • Grade: 1 to 3
  • Length: 33km, 24km
  • Duration: 3 to 5 hours, 2 to 4 hours
  • Type: Narrow, fast
  • Put-in: Below dam wall
  • Take-out: Above Montrose Falls
  • Dam controlled: Kwena Dam
  • Permits: None

MAP 47

The gauging weir at the start below the dam can be shot in the middle. Els Weir, 1km after the start, should be portaged on the left. 3km further down is Steyn’s low-level bridge, which should be portaged on the right. At the 6km mark is O’Connor’s Corner, which is a tricky S-bend to the right followed by a challenging rapid. A pipeline bridge 1km further down is covered at racing levels and can be shot over the centre. Another kilometre leads to Lionel’s Rapid, shootable in the centre. Blokes’ Block, at the 10km mark, is a huge rock in the river, which can be negotiated on either side. The Sterkdoorn Weir soon after this can be shot right of centre of the right opening.

An interesting section of easily readable rapids starts at 15km, going on for about 2km. At the end of this, one encounters the biggest rapid of the race. Go down on the far left till the river bends right. Then head for the centre over the main drop. The next rapid, 200m down, should also be run in the centre. The remaining section to the take-out consists of flat-water, easy rapids and a small weir close to the end at Weltevreden Bridge.

The second day, starting just below the Weltevreden Bridge, is a bit shorter and not as difficult as the first day. The main obstacles are a series of low-level bridges that are all shot through gaps more or less in the middle. The exception is the Sappi causeway, 11km after the start. It should be portaged on the left. The take-out is just above Montrose Falls below the N4.

Montrose Falls itself has become a favourite spot for kayakers to visit on their way to the other rivers in the Lowveld. It consists of one major drop on the left and a double drop on the right. The left drop has never been run, and it is likely to stay that way, as the entry before the 16m fall is very difficult. The first drop on the right has been run once, with less success than was anticipated: rather give this one a miss too. The drop to have fun on, is the second one on the right. It is about 9m high, not really vertical, but almost a chute, and safe at basically any level. Seal launch into the pool between the two drops and enjoy the ride down.

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