Wit Els River

The Wit Els is one of those special rivers that are very isolated, requires a strenuous hike to reach the put-in and always has potential to convert a trip in an epic.

  • Ideal for: Kayak
  • Grade: 4 to 5
  • Length: 18km
  • Duration: 1 to 2 days
  • Type: Continuous creek
  • Put-in: See text
  • Take-out: Picnic site at confluence with Dwars. It is the only turn-off to the left on the road from Ceres to Wellington.    33°24’60.0″S 19°17’26.9″E
  • Dam controlled: No
  • Permits: Permission for both put-in points


To do the river from the top, one has to hike in via the UCT Ski Club Hut from the south side. It is a serious hike that can take a full day with a kayak. From here down, expect to do an overnight trip, unless you know the river well. The only way to get access to the trail is to arrange it beforehand with the UCT Mountain Club, who controls this part of the mountains. The other put-in is from the northern side. This hike starts from a farm called Merwede, on a trail commonly known as Adderley Street. This hike is also a mission, and reaches the river halfway down. Ask permission to gain access on the farm.

The river is extremely continuous. The top section just after the first put-in is very tight, but it opens up somewhat after a few kilometres. Even then, the river still consists of continuous class 3 to 4 rapids. Most part of the section can be scouted doing eddy-hopping if one is competent, but a few rapids will have to be scouted from the bank. There are a couple of class 5 rapids to look out for, and two boulder chokes that are unrunnable. There is also a rapid going through a natural tunnel of about 50m long, pretty weird. The last section before the take-out steepens again, providing some good action.

The river is very isolated, and one is likely to experience cold weather when paddling it; only very experienced paddlers should attempt to paddle it. The best way to plan for this trip would be to become a good friend of someone with a helicopter, before the rainy season begins.

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