Vaal River – Barrage to Parys

This is the perfect section for the masochists among us. It is long and mostly flat, with many channels to choose from. Actually a very nice section of river from a K1/K2 racing point of view, with beautiful scenery and some challenging obstacles.

  • Ideal for: K1, K2
  • Grade: 1 to 2-
  • Length: 44km
  • Duration: 4 to 7 hours
  • Type: Mostly flat, lots of channels
  • Put-in: Barrage
  • Take-out: Likkewaan Canoe Club, off the Parys – Sasolburg road, or at Smilin Thru, off the Parys-Fochville road
  • Dam controlled: Barrage
  • Permits: None

MAP 55

The river starts off wide and flat with a stretch of about 10 km before the first rapid called ‘Benoude Boude’. This used to be a rapid with many channels, but it has changed over the years and now the race line is to stick left all the way. At a high level there is a fair sized hole that stretches across the river at the bottom of the rapid. Most of the rapids on this section, although small, can cause serious damage to a glass boat because of the sharp rocks.

After this there used to be a weir but with the construction of the Goose Canyon Bay weir further on, this one is now submerged. The weir at Goose Canyon Bay is very high, but there is a chute built for paddlers on the right. Shoot it 1m left of the pillar. At high levels it is a compulsory portage due to suckback.

From here on the river winds past a small resort on the Gauteng side (20 km from start) where some of the shorter races end. From the resort down to Smilin Thru Chalets, the river moves through some interesting islands interspersed with small rapids. Paddlers wanting to do well in races on this section have to learn these channels. Some of them take large detours around the islands before joining the main current again.

The races end at the Likkewaan Canoe Club (about 8km downstream from Smilin Thru) above the big weir, upstream from Parys.

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