Orange River – Hopetown

An annual two-day race is held on this section, with distances of 38km and 45km respectively on the two days, but various shorter trips can be done. The area around Thunder Alley is particularly popular for rafting.

  • Ideal for: K1, croc, kayak
  • Grade: 2 to 3
  • Length: 83km on race section, over 100km on full section
  • Duration: 2-day race, short tripping sections
  • Type: Open for most part, narrow gorge section on last stage
  • Put-in: Bridge on dirt road off the R369, close to Orania
  • Take-out: Bridge, R357
  • Dam controlled: Vanderkloof Dam
  • Permits: Permission from farmers when doing shorter trips

MAP 59

From the put-in the river is mostly flat, interspersed with small rapids. All the action of the first day happens on a short section just over halfway, where a few big rapids have caused many swims. The first of these, called Shake, Rattle and Roll, has a violent hole on the left about halfway through the rapid, with a long wave train after that. This hole is also the scene of the annual carnage when kayakers try to strut their stuff at the Orange Fun Rodeo.

Soon after that the next intimidating rapid, named Long Drop, awaits paddlers with some action. It is quite steep with a couple of holes and waves on the way down in the middle, and some boils on the right that should be given a miss. At higher levels these boils are really bad and scouting is necessary before attempting the rapid.

An easy cruise follows from here to the take-out point, with a few small rapids and a low weir to negotiate.

The stretch for the second day of the race provides a bit more action. It starts very flat and stays flat for a few kilometres. The first real rapid on the stretch is Hubbly Bubbly, which has a big drop. Not far below that is Hell’s Gate, the entrance to Thunder Alley. At Hell’s Gate the wide river drops into the narrow gorge, and the drop should be portaged. It is runnable at certain levels by competent paddlers, but don’t even think about running it in a K1. Thunder Alley is a bit of a misnomer, as the rapids in the long gorge are all in the class 1 to 2 range. Its name comes from the powerboaters who race down the narrow gorge, causing a lot of noise.

The nice and easy rapids continue past the take-out of the race at Kameelfontein farm down to the R357.

A long and enjoyable overnight trip can be done on the whole section described here, taking 3 to 5 days by raft. Many paddlers opt for day trips on the different sections, though, especially in Thunder Alley.

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