Orange River – Vioolsdrif down

Multi-day trips on the Orange River were established on this section, and it is still a favourite piece of river for many people wanting to get away from urban life. The Orange winds between the rugged Richtersveld Mountains, a barren desert that would have been inhospitable without the presence of the sometimes mighty river.

  • Ideal for: Canoe, K1, croc
  • Grade: 1 to 2
  • Length: 75 or 120 or 160 km
  • Duration: 4 to 8 days
  • Type: Long flat sections, small rapids
  • Put-in: Vioolsdrif
  • Take-out: Aussenkehr, Fish confluence, Sendelingsdrif
  • Dam controlled: Vanderkloof Dam, Bloemhof Dam
  • Permits: None
  • Commercial operator: Gravity River Tours

MAP 62

The river is very flat with just a few small rapids to break the monotony. Every now and then the water channels between islands. Some impressive geological wonders like the Snail Mountain can be viewed, and bird life is plentiful. Beaches abound, waiting to be camped upon.

The major rapid of the section is Sjambok, where the water is forced through a small gap forming a couple of waves with whirlpools on the sides. It is not that difficult, but it has a reputation for sending the occupants of open canoes into the wet. Soon after this the river enters the really deep canyons of the Richtersveld National Park.

The Richtersveld is also the home of that strangest of plants, called the ‘Halfmens’ (pachipodium namaquanum). They become more common further down to the coast, but individuals can be spotted high on the steep sides of the mountains.

Different take-out points can be used, the first being Aussenkehr farm after 4 days of paddling. The canyon closes again after the Aussenkehr flats, and another two days of paddling takes one to the Fish River confluence. These take-out points are both on the Namibian side of the river, and when using them, one has to go through the border post at Vioolsdrif and put in on the northern bank. The last take-out at Sendelingsdrif is on the South African side again.

The section of the river past Aussenkehr features more rapids and channels, but it is still easy going. From Sendelingsdrif down to the sea the river is absolutely flat, and it is difficult to obtain permission to get out at Alexander Bay.

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