Little Usutu River

This river may be only the little brother of the Usutu but it holds every bit as much action. Its Swazi name is the Lusushwana.

The section described here is a fantastic piece of river, with impressive slides and big drops providing good photographic and video opportunities. There are some steep and technical sections, requiring good boat skills and quick reactions.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4+ (5 at high water) and a big 6 to finish off
  • Length: 15km
  • Duration: 4 to 5 hours with sufficient water
  • Type: Mostly pool-drop with some big slides and some quite continuous, tight sections
  • Put-in: Travelling from Mbabane on the Mhlambanyatsi road you will cross the river just above the inlet to Luphohlo Dam. Roughly 6 km later, turn left onto gravel road at school sign.
  • ollow the road until it gets within 100m of the river and walk down. A shuttle bunny is essential!
  • Take-out: Road bridge
  • Dam Controlled: Luphuhlo Dam
  • Permits: None

MAP 64

Be extra careful when approaching the Mantenga Falls, as there is a series of unrunnable cataracts for +/- 200m leading up to it. When the gradient mellows and the bush starts encroaching on the river, it’s time to start looking sharp. Keep left (river splits into islands) and take out above the approach rapid, which leads straight into the first cataract. Walk around the falls on the left bank and continue downstream for another 3km of grade 3-ish rapids down to the road bridge.

It is also possible to end the trip at Mantenga Falls in the Mantenga Nature Reserve. Stop far above the falls and find the road on river-left that leads around the falls.

This section only works after extensive rains or dam release, but it is worth putting off other sections to do this one if the opportunity arises.

If you have time on hand and you want some warm up action, the kilometre of the Little Usutu above Luphohlo Dam is thick with action, but too short to be a section on its own.

Another section to explore is below the Matsapha Dam, which is also a noteworthy source of entertainment.

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:
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