Breede River

The Breede is another river that is used extensively by K1-paddlers in the Western Cape. It is flat for most of the way, with weirs and low-level bridges to negotiate. Palmiet channels can also be found on the upper stretches. The river is dam controlled, making it reliable for year-round paddling. An annual 2-day race, the Breede River marathon, is held on a part of it, as well as various shorter races on different stretches.


The section from Darling bridge to Wysersdrif is narrow with small rapids. The main obstacles are the many low-level bridges. At low levels most of them should be portaged. At high levels, some strong stopper waves form below them. It is advisable to scout all of them properly at all levels before running them.

The section from Wysersdrif to Nekkies Resort is really easy. This is a good practise section for K1-paddlers.

From Nekkies Resort to Alfiesdrif small class 1 rapids are encountered, as well as a weir halfway down which is shootable, but scout it first. An early take-out can be made at the bridge of the R43 after 7km of paddling, or one can go another 5km on to the dirt road at Alfiesdrif. Look out for trees at a high level.

From Alfiesdrif down to Silverstrand is a 38km stretch of mostly flat-water and really small rapids. There is a weir halfway down at Eilandia, portage it on the left. A rocky weir at about 30 km should also be portaged. About 10 minutes before the end, take a shortcut to the left into a small channel, to avoid boat breaking in the rapid that is straight down with the main flow. Once in the channel, portage the low-level bridge on the left and the tree-block at the end also on the left.

The section from McGregor bridge to Bonnievale forms the first day of the Breede River marathon. The section is 37km long and the rapids are small. There are however a couple of weirs and low-level bridges. There is a sliding weir halfway down at Goudmyn, which is shootable on the right. The low-level bridge 100m further would be safer to portage on the left. Another low-level bridge 300m further should definitely be portaged, also on the left. The Secunda weir a bit further down is shootable on the right-hand side, but do it slowly. The last obstacle is a low-level bridge, 20 minutes before the end. Go underneath it at a low level, portage it at a medium level, and go straight over at a high level after scouting from the right.

The section from Drew bridge to Swellendam is the course of the second day of the Breede River marathon. Most rapids are small, with the exception of the Waterfall rapid. It can be run at most levels, but it is advisable to scout it first. The Swellendam weir, near the end, should also be scouted before attempting it. The take-out is at Die Stroom, just upstream of the Bontebok National Park.

Below Bontebok is a nice scenic section enjoyed by K1-paddlers, plastic kayakers and rafters. The whole section is 40km long. K1-paddlers will take 5 to 6 hours to complete the section, while everybody else can do a relaxing two-day trip. The rapids are mostly class 1 to 2, with long flat sections. A small waterfall soon after the put-in should be portaged by K1-paddlers, but plastic kayakers and crocs can have fun on it at most water levels. Most access points on the stretch, including the take-out, are on private ground, so ask permission before venturing onto it.

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