Orange River – Augrabies Gorge

Although this section is not open for the general paddling public, it is one of the most amazing gorges in the country with big rapids; it just can’t be omitted in a guide like this. It has been paddled on special occasions like the 1999 Camel Whitewater Challenge, and the few privileged ones who did it, rave about the experience. The whole gorge, starting below the Augrabies Falls, is part of the Augrabies Falls National Park and the authorities are not easily persuaded to consent to a run.

The well-known section starts with a strenuous climb down at Oranjekom. From here downstream there are five rapids, class 3 to 5 (depending on water level), which are all runnable by expert paddlers. The three rapids upstream of this point are in the class 3 to 4 range, and the rapids above that, from the waterfall down, class 5.

The first rapid, Rocky Horror, is the most difficult one. It starts as an innocent looking grade 3 section, but gradually becomes steeper and more technical. The last section of this long rapid is big and difficult at any water level.

The second rapid, Timewarp, is short and steep but pretty straightforward. At low levels it requires a technical move at the top, and a sticky hole forms at the bottom at all levels.

Wild and Untamed Thing, which comes third, is long and intimidating. It has a series of ledges, forming nasty pour-overs. A few good kayakers have come short on this one.

The next rapid is called G-Force. It is very steep and forms some bad holes at any level. A run down this rapid is fast and, if the line is not messed up, extremely satisfying.

The last rapid of the section, Anticipation, has two options, depending on the water level. An island splits the rapid in two. A technical run down on the left is feasible at a low level, but when the water gets high this side is ugly and a boof over the pour-over on the right is the better option. The take-out is at Echo Corner.

The gorge is very deep with barren walls, making for a Grand Canyon type of experience. Hopefully this gorge will be opened up in the future in the form of a commercial operation for paddlers to appreciate.

MAP 60

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