Usutu River – Power station

This is a superb piece of river and probably the most popular run for locals. For most of the way, the flood plain is very wide, with numerous channels to choose from. This produces a unique combination of big volume drops interspersed with some more creeky runs. Hence the class 3 to 4+ grading.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to 4+ (5 at high water)
  • Length: 10 km
  • Duration: 3 to 5 hours
  • Type: Combination of pool-drop and more continuous sections
  • Put-in: Low-level bridge on Mankayane road. Take Rosecraft turn-off.
  • Take-out: Magaduza power station
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

MAP 64

The section starts off with a flurry of 5 or 6 solid drops that will require scouting, and then mellows slightly to continuous grade 3. Some river-reading skill is needed to follow the major current through the channels when levels are on the low side. Dwaleni power station is past the halfway point and normally adds a little more volume. One can also use the Dwaleni power station as an access point for a shorter trip.

The river continues with some easy-going rapids and some more confusing channels, before reaching a river-wide slide series that calls for some scouting / sneaking. When the second power station (Magaduza) is in sight, the river splits around an island – keep left to avoid missing the take-out at Magaduza and the final multi-drop combination to finish off with; pay attention here. At low to medium levels it is recommended for intermediate to experienced paddlers, but at high water only the bomb-proof should attempt it, as things become fast and furious.

Due to the multitude of channels it is quite possible to do this stretch more than once and encounter new rapids each time. The numerous channels and islands are typical of the Usutu in this stage of its journey. Islands are often thick with riverine vegetation and huge fig trees that form canopies over the river. Large parts of the Usutu were scoured out by Cyclone Demoina in 1984. This section is showing signs of starting the long recovery process.

This section has proven to be worthwhile even at very low levels.

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