Elands River – Waterval-Boven to Sappi

The Elands is a small tributary to the Crocodile River. It is famous for its waterfall at Waterval-Boven, which has become a tourist attraction. The Elands is easily accessible as the N4 runs along it all the way from Waterval-Boven to Montrose, making different put-in and take-out points possible.

The section described here is quite long, and only worthwhile to paddle at medium to high levels. When the water is up, expect a fast, exciting run. The section used to be very tight with some tree-blocks, but flash floods have scoured it open. It does not mean that there are no strainers anymore, so always be wary.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3
  • Length: 22km
  • Duration: 3 to 5 hours
  • Type: Narrow, continuous gradient
  • Put-in: Walk down from the parking area, 1km below tunnel at Waterval-Boven. At lower water, walk down from Waterval-Onder where the road comes close to river.
  • Take-out: Bridge at Sappi factory
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Olifants River – Above Strijdom Tunnel

The scenery on this trip will impress anyone, no matter what your frame of reference is. It goes through a very deep gorge with steep-sided cliffs. It is a very isolated piece of river and one is very unlikely to meet anyone else in this mountain wilderness.

  • Ideal for: Croc, kayak
  • Grade: 2 to 3
  • Length: 45km
  • Duration: 2 to 3 days
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Penge, or Mabinz for a day trip
  • Take-out: Follow dirt road next to Manoutsa down to river. Take-out is upstream of the weir.
  • Dam controlled: Loskop Dam, but it is far upstream. Water level not really dependent on dam release.
  • Permits: None
  • Commercial operators: Blyde

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Olifants River – Bobbejaan to Loskop Dam

This is a very similar section compared to the previous one, except that the most difficult section is on the first half before levelling off on the last couple of kilometres.Ideal for: Kayak

  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 34km
  • Duration: Long one-day, easy two-day trip
  • Type: Pool-drop, continuous at places
  • Put-in: At the huts of the Bobbejaan hiking trail next to river
  • Take-out: Just upstream of Loskop dam (where Roan Lodge used to be), near the well-known Kanongat
  • Dam controlled: Witbank Dam
  • Permits: Permission for entering hiking trail on farm, call (013) 282-6101. Ask for directions to the huts. A 4×4 or at least a vehicle with high clearance is needed. Same applies to take-out on farm. Ask permission and use a 4×4. Also permit for take-out. Contact the Manager of the Loskop Dam Game Reserve at (013) 262-4190.

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Olifants River – Witbank to Bobbejaan

This is a must-do for competent kayakers, and even skilled paddlers with crocs can enjoy it. It goes through spectacular gorges and has continuous rapids when the water is up. Witbank Dam controls the flow of the water, and prolonged rain is needed before enough water is released to make it paddleable.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 26km
  • Duration: 5 to 7 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop, continuous at places
  • Put-in: Hotel next to river
  • Take-out: At the huts of the Bobbejaan hiking trail next to river
  • Dam controlled: Witbank Dam
  • Permits: Permission for entering hiking trail on farm (call 013-282-6101). Ask for directions to the huts. A 4×4 or at least a vehicle with high clearance is needed.

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Olifants River – Introduction

The Olifants River is a major river of Mpumalanga, with paddleable stretches in the High- and Lowveld. The upper stretches are unfortunately dam-controlled. Most of the paddleable sections go through unspoilt gorges, providing stunning scenery. Loskop Dam and the whole section below it has hippos and crocodiles, making it less suitable for water-born expeditions. It eventually runs into the Limpopo River.

Apart from the Wilge, the Olifants has another major tributary, called the Little Olifants. The Little Olifants is paddleable after good rains, when it is continuous but not too steep. Strainers are a problem on this river, as the river does not run most of the time and the vegetation has invaded the riverbed. Few paddlers ever attempt to run it and it is not described in detail here.

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Wilge River – Verena bridge to Loskop Dam

This is a long but interesting section for kayakers, with stunning scenery. The first half of this trip is on the Wilge, and the second half on the Olifants, with the confluence of the two rivers more or less in the middle. There are continuous sections of easy rapids and a couple of more serious drops that can be negotiated at one’s own risk. It can be done in one day when the water level is not too low, but a two-day trip will do more justice to the experience.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 2 to 4
  • Length: 28km
  • Duration: 5 to 7 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Verena bridge
  • Take-out: Just upstream of Loskop dam (where Roan Lodge used to be), near the well-known Kanongat
  • Dam controlled: Premier Mine Dam. Olifants section, also Witbank Dam.
  • Permits: Permit for take-out. Contact the Manager of the Loskop Dam Game Reserve at (013) 262-4190.

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Wilge River – Zusterstroom to Verena bridge

This is a very scenic stretch, but mostly flat with only a few small rapids. The Wilge flows nicely almost without exception every summer, but water levels are still very unpredictable. Keep an eye open for crocodiles, and don’t miss the plenitude of birds.

  • Ideal for: K1
  • Grade: 1
  • Length: 15km
  • Duration: 2 to 3hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Bridge close to Zusterstroom
  • Take-out: Bridge on R544 between Witbank and Verena
  • Dam controlled: Premier Mine Dam
  • Permits: None

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Wilge River – Zemvelo Reserve to Zusterstroom

The Wilge is one of the major tributaries to the Olifants. It has a couple of interesting stretches for both kayakers and K1-paddlers. This Wilge should not be confused with the other Wilge River that runs into the Vaal Dam.

This is an interesting section with fairly technical rapids and two waterfalls.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4
  • Length: 25km
  • Duration: 4 to 6 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: At low-level bridge on private farm next to Ezemvelo Game Lodge, outside Bronkhorstspruit
  • Take-out: Bridge close to Zusterstroom
  • Levels paddleable: If water is not running over low-level bridge at put-in, it is too low
  • Dam controlled: Premier Mine Dam
  • Permits: Ask permission from farmer

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Apies River

Most people in Pretoria know about the Apies River, as it runs right through the city, where it is obstructed with dangerous weirs. The section described here, however, starts some 20km north of Pretoria. It is an easy section, suitable for inexperienced paddlers. The Bon Accord Dam ensures a constant flow right through the year. The water level is usually at it’s highest in January and February, at the peak of the rainy season in this area.

  • Ideal for: Croc, kayak
  • Grade: 1 to 2
  • Length: 16 km
  • Duration: 6 to 8 hours
  • Type: Narrow, pool-drop
  • Put-in: Bridge close to Rooiwal Power Station
  • Take-out: Pro-Act Ventures
  • Dam controlled: Bon Accord Dam
  • Permits: Permission from Pro-Act Ventures at take-out
  • Commercial operator: Pro-Act Ventures

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Jukskei / Highveld Crocodile River – Laughing Waters to Broederstroom

This is an easy section, ideal for beginners. It has long flat pools, with mostly small rapids and a few weirs.Ideal for: Croc, K1, kayak

  • Grade: 1 to 2
  • Length: 13km
  • Duration: 2 to 3 hours in a K1, 4 to 5 hours in a croc
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Laughing Waters (River Road in Rhenosterspruit Private Reserve)
  • Take-out: ‘Roos se Oord’ on the right bank just after the Broederstroom bridge
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: Permission at entrance of reserve and at ‘Roos se Oord’
  • Commercial operators: Paddle Power

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