Olifants River – Visgat

This rarely run but awesome piece of the Olifants River cuts right through the Groot Wintershoek wilderness and is one of the most beautiful gorges in South Africa. There are no roads even close to the edge of the gorge, so once you start, you are locked in until you leave the walled-in gorge.

Access is an issue, where a permit is needed by Cape Nature and that is no guarantee the farmer will let you put in on his property…

  • Ideal for: Creek boat
  • Grade: 4 – 5
  • Length: 40km
  • Duration: 10 hours / best to do overnight
  • Type: Very tight pool-drop with some continuous sections
  • Put-in: Low level bridge, Glendonald Farm
  • Take out: The road by the Citrusdal Warm Baths
  • Levels paddleable: Usually two or three days after good rain in the Ceres area. Do not put on if flooding.
  • Permits: Cape Nature permits and Glendonald farmer permission

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Middeldeur/Twee River

On the edge of the Cederberg hides this little gem of a river. It is a short run made up of five prominent drops with some fun class 2 rapids inbetween. It is quite far from Cape Town, but it is worth the trip if you stay at the guest farm, they have some fantastic camping facilities. It is a great place to spend the weekend with family and friends where a bit of kayaking can be enjoyed.

  • Ideal for: Creek boat, or playboat if you are feeling brave
  • Grade: 2-4
  • Length: 3.6km
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Type: Pool drop with waterfalls
  • Put-in: Low level bridge at the start of the 4×4 track   32°41’10.6″S 19°16’44.4″E
  • Take out: River right where there is a short walk back to the track. 4×4 is necessary.
  • Levels paddleable: Usually paddleable after good rains in the Ceres region
  • Permits: Ask the owners of Suikerbossie nicely and they should let you in

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Tradouw River

The Tradouw is easily one of the best runs in the country, but because it borders the arid Karoo, it unfortunately only runs once every two years or so. When it does though, you will see Cape paddlers flocking to Barrydale.

  • Ideal for: Creek boat
  • Grade: 4 – 5
  • Length: 11km
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Type: Continuous creeking with some big holes
  • Put-in: River parking for the Bronze Grove Farm and Chalets
  • Take out: River left once the road gets close to the river after you exit the gorge
  • Levels paddleable: Usually paddleable when the area is experiencing floods. If Montague is flooding the Tradouw will be up.
  • Permits: Bronze Grove for permission to park at put in.

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Krom River

The Krom River joins with the Elandspad River to form the Molenaars.  It is recommended for good reactive paddlers who can read water on the fly and keep a level head; it is fast. When in doubt, boof.

  • Ideal for: Creek boat
  • Grade: 4
  • Length: 2.5km from put-in to low-level bridge
  • Duration: 1½ hour
  • Type: Continuous, open
  • Put-in: Below new tunnel at parking place. Hike up the Krom river hiking path.  33°43’7.53″S  19° 6’39.72″E
  • Take-out: Bridge for Molenaars put in  33°43’51.31″S  19° 7’4.97″E
  • Levels paddleable: When Molenaars is at a medium to high level
  • Permits: None

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Other rivers of the Western Cape

There are other rivers that can be paddled by the locals when it rains exactly at the right spot.

The Doring River has a nice technical piece far upstream of the more well-known section at Clanwilliam, with some class 2 to 3 rapids. The section is near the confluence of the Groot, Riet and Matjies Rivers in the Ceres Karoo, and is commercially run by Intrapid Rafting.

The Berg River has a nice technical stretch upstream of the well-known marathon section, in the Lamott plantations. It is a narrow, fast creek, similar to small creeks in the Alps, with class 3 to low 4 rapids. There are few serious obstacles, but be on the lookout for trees that might have fallen in the river. It is an exciting run for competent paddlers.

The Disa River in Cape Town, running into the ocean at Hout Bay, has some interesting drops and a couple of weirs to negotiate.

The Riviersonderend is a flat river going through marshes for most of its course, but there are two sections, upstream and downstream of Greyton, that provide a bit of action and are most serene. These two sections, billed as ‘Milk and Honey’ and ‘Enchanted’, are both run commercially by Intrapid Rafting.

The Gamka River, north of Calitzdorp in the Swartberg mountains, is very similar to the Palmiet River, but wider. The best section to do is from just below the Gamkapoort Dam, which also regulates the flow of the river. Contact the Water Affairs in Worcester to confirm the water release before embarking on the journey to the river.

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.

Groot River

The Groot River runs through the well-known Meiringspoort kloof through the Swartberg Mountains, providing one of a few links between the Klein and Groot Karoo. The famed Afrikaans writer Langenhoven did an extraordinary trip through the kloof in the 1920’s with a tram pulled by an elephant called Herrie, which he described in his story “Herrie op die ou Tremspoor”. The current road going through the kloof crosses the river more than 20 times.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3
  • Length: 15km
  • Duration: 4 to 5 hours
  • Type: Boulder strewn, fairly continuous
  • Put-in: At a bridge where the road crosses the river, near the northern boundary of the Swartberg State Forest
  • Take-out: At a bridge where the road crosses the river, near the southern boundary of the Swartberg State Forest
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

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Gouritz River

The Gouritz River – and the access roads to it – runs through the scenic Langeberg Mountains. Like most rivers in the Western Cape, it can only be paddled after good rains.

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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. Read More

Palmiet River

The greater part of this beautiful river flows through the Kogelberg Nature Reserve, offering unspoilt fynbos and sandstone mountain scenery. It is a great river with pool-drop rapids, some of which are quite technical. The water has a characteristic tea colour (thanks to the palmiets), but is very drinkable.

  • Ideal for: Kayak, bottom section also croc
  • Grade: 3
  • Length: 25 km from farm, 4 km from reserve
  • Duration: 6 to 8 hours, or 1 to 2 hours for last section with playing
  • Type: Pool-drop. Long flat stretches on top section, lots of channels.
  • Put-in: 1) Low-level bridge on Monteith Trust farm. Phone during office hours (before 9 am on Friday) for access. 34°15’18.3″S 19°02’02.7″E
    2) In the Kogelberg Nature Reserve. Entrance from R44, close to take-out point. Ask for road to put-in at the gate.  34°18’54.4″S 18°57’45.9″E
  • Take-out: At river-mouth, just after bridge on R44.  34°19’51.5″S 18°59’28.4″E
  • Levels paddleable: Water must be flowing through all openings at low-level bridge
  • Dam controlled: Yes
  • Permits: Permission from Trust Farm when doing full section (contact CWWC). Seasonal or day permit from CNC for short section.
  • Commercial operators: Gravity River Tours

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