Umzimkulu River – Polela to Centocow

This is a fairly steep and rocky section of the Umzimkulu River, where some of the rapids drop several meters in as little distance. At low levels it is rocky and only suitable for kayaks, but when the level gets higher, wildwater racers can enjoy it as well. At all levels it is enjoyable for kayakers who have a bit of experience.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 3 to low 4
  • Length: 10km
  • Duration: 3 to 4 hours
  • Type: Pool-drop
  • Put-in: Polela confluence, where road comes close to river
  • Take-out: Centocow mission bridge
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: None

Umzimkulu Polela map

The steep rapid below the train bridge always has a sticky hole somewhere; look out for it. The next steep rapid has very serious holes at high levels and should be scouted and maybe portaged.

Close to the end, after the river makes a sharp turn to the left and again to the right, a technical class 4 rapid calls for precise manoeuvring. At low levels it has pinning potential and at higher levels a few bad holes.

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.