This section of the Umkomaas River belongs to the old classics club. It can be paddled at low and high levels. The water channels nicely instead of disappearing through the rocks when the level is low, making the rapids still fun. Stay away at a high level unless you know the river well. The gorge is inaccessible for the most part, and one of the most beautiful in the country.
- Ideal for: Kayak
- Grade: 3 to 4, 5 at high levels
- Length: 35km
- Duration: 5 to 8 hours
- Type: Pool-drop
- Put-in: Take turn-off (2km from Lundy’s Hill on R617) to Deepdale station. Drive 8km on good dirt road as far as Deepdale station, where railway bridge across river will be visible. Stop and walk through the veld down to the river.
- Take-out: Hella-Hella bridge. Get out 50m before bridge on right bank.
- Dam controlled: No
- Permits: None
The river is pretty flat where you get in, and stays like that for some distance until you encounter Deepdale Falls. It is 15m high in total and has been shot a few times. The entry is tricky and shouldn’t be attempted at a low level. It has two drops next to each other; the one on the left is the safer one of the two. The portage can be done on the island in the middle or on the right bank.
The gorge starts after the waterfall. From here on lots of class 3 and 4 rapids wait for you, some of them quite long, with class 5 rapids thrown in for more pleasure at high levels. Some rapids have to be scouted from the bank, but most of them can be scouted doing eddy-hopping if you have the nerves. Look out for Short and Long drop, they drop a lot in a short distance. The latter has a couple of nasty pour-overs, so rather get out on the right bank and scout the thing.
The last few kilometers become flatter again, but look out for the natural weir. There are runnable lines through it, but first scout. It has a nasty suck-back that will assist in involuntary cartwheels. Not far after this rapid some nice surf-waves can be found at high levels, so enjoy that if you still have energy left at the end of this long but worthwhile trip.
Detailed trip reports on Adrian Tregoning’s blog: KwaZulu Natal’s Hidden Gem and Unadulterated Pleasure
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:
I appreciate any contributions to keep this content up-to-date.