For some unknown reason this must be the most under-estimated and un-used stretch of the Umkomaas River. Although it is high up on the Umkomaas, it’s still below most major tributaries and carries basically the same amount of water as the more popular lower stretches.
- Ideal for: Kayak, crocs
- Grade: 3 to 4
- Length: 38km
- Duration: 8 hours if the river is not high. Long 1 day, easy 2 day trip.
- Type: Pool-drop. Middle section more continuous.
- Put-in: Road bridge between Netherby and Impendle. Dirt roads normally in good condition.
- Take-out: Turn off at Lundy’s Hill store from R617 and go over small bridge across river. Take out upstream of bridge. Riverwise this is the second bridge. The first one is where the R617
- rosses the river.
- Dam controlled: No
- Permits: None
The river goes through a very isolated valley and chances are good that you won’t see a single sign of life on the greatest part of the journey. The scenery is awesome and probably the best on the whole Umkomaas.
All rapids are runnable with a kayak and an inflatable raft, but some should rather be scouted from the bank. The few nasty rapids have easy chicken-runs, just look out for them. The middle section of the stretch (3-4 hours long) has many rapids with short pools between them, and at high level the section becomes pretty continuous. Although challenging, the runs are not hairy. A quite serious rapid (solid class 4) with big boulders and tight manoeuvring marks the end of the continuous section, after which the pools become a bit longer again.
A bit further down there is a particularly bad rapid where the main flow of the water goes into a pour-over and directly after that runs into an undercut. You won’t get stuck there, but you will definitely get hurt. At medium to high water, spray is visible to warn oncoming traffic from a distance. Take the chicken-run on the right or portage on the left. After this the rapids get smaller and it is just a matter of keep going to the end. Just before take-out a nasty weir forms a last obstacle. Rather portage this one, and at high level get out on the right bank well before the weir, otherwise you might get washed over it.
Competent K1-paddlers will be able to run most of the rapids, but definitely not all of them. There are a lot more rapids than on the well-known section below Hella-Hella, and quite a few of them are more challenging. At a low level this stretch might be a bit too long for unfit paddlers (regardless of the boat used) to manage in one day, but at a high level it will be a very rewarding one-day paddle. An overnight trip is also a good idea, giving more time to enjoy the river and play on the waves you will find along the way.
Detailed trip report on Adrian Tregoning’s blog: Upper Umkomaas
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.