Rivers of KwaZulu-Natal

KwaZulu-Natal is without doubt the premier province for river paddling in South Africa. It boasts numerous rivers with sections of all levels of difficulty, catering for the whole range of paddlers. Most sections are relatively easily accessible.

The western part of the province is dominated by the imposing Drakensberg mountain range, where most rivers of the region rise. The rivers become navigable at the foot of the mountains, where they are mostly of continuous nature but not seriously steep. These upper sections are only worthwhile to paddle after rains in the mountains, otherwise a frustrating bumb-and-scrape trip can be guaranteed.

Most of the popular sections to paddle are in the Natal Midlands, where the streams converge to make fine flowing rivers winding through spectacular mountainous areas. The deep valleys are sparsely populated by friendly people who still follows traditional lifestyles. Some challenging gorges can also be found here, boasting steep rapids and waterfalls.

The rivers generally flatten out closer to the coast, and the lower stretches are mostly used by K1-paddlers. There are exceptions however, with a few of them carving through major gorges, providing action all the way down to the sea.

Apart from the wealth of rivers, the province has the added advantage of being flanked by the Indian Ocean. The excellent waves on the warm water of the sea and the many sandy beaches give one enough to do when the rivers are low. Add to that the warm summers and mild winters, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for fun.

Only a few of the rivers go through Nature Reserves, and where they do, the officials are generally amiable towards paddlers. The private landowners are not too difficult either, some are actually encouring paddlers to use their farms to access the rivers, provided they behave themselves. Most of the paddleable sections are nevertheless reachable via public roads.

KwaZulu-Natal is a summer rainfall region, and the best time to expect good levels is between January and April.