The Blyde River Canyon is the third largest canyon in the world 26 946 ha, after the Grand Canyon in the United States and the Fish River Canyon in Namibia, and is the largest ‘green canyon’ due to its lush subtropical foliage, with the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon on the planet.
One of the most-visited attractions in South Africa, the Blyde River Canyon is 26 kilometres in length and is, on average, around 800m deep.
Blyde means “glad” or “happy” in old Dutch, a name derived from a voortrekkers‘ expedition. The ‘happy river’ was thus named in 1844, when Hendrik Potgieter and others returned safely from Delagoa Bay (Maputo Bay) to the rest of their party of trekkers who had considered them dead. While still under this misapprehension they had named the nearby river where they had been encamped, Treurrivier, or ‘mourning river’.
Blyde River Canyon Reserve extends along the Blyde River Canyon’s winding path, which at every turn offers more and more impressive views over sheer edges, doping 800m into the riverbed. It is situated against the Greater Drakensberg escarpment region of eastern Mpumalanga, South Africa.
The reserve protects the Blyde River Canyon, including sections of the Ohrigstad and Blyde Rivers and the geological formations around Bourke’s Luck Potholes, where the Treur River tumbles into the Blyde below. Southwards of the canyon, the reserve follows the escarpment, to include the Devil’s and God’s Window, the latter a popular viewpoint to the lowveld at the reserve’s southern extremity.
The Mogologolo (1,794 m), Mariepskop (1,944 m) and Hebronberg (1,767 m) massifs are partially included in the reserve. Elevation varies from 560 m to 1,944 m above sea level. Its resort areas are F.H. Odendaal and Swadeni, the latter only accessible from Limpopo province. The area of approximately 29,000 hectares (290 km2) is administered by the Mpumalanga Parks Board.
Fauna and flora
The Blyde River Canyon supports large diversity of life, including numerous fish and antelope species as well as hippos and crocodiles, and every primate species that may be seen in South Africa (including both greater and lesser bushbabies, vervet monkeys and Samango monkeys). The diversity of birdlife is similarly high.
At 200 metres, the Kadishi Tufa waterfall is the second tallest tufa waterfall on earth. A tufa waterfall is formed when water running over dolomite rock absorbs calcium, and deposits rock formations more rapidly than they erode the surrounding rock.
In the case of the Kadishi Tufa fall, the formation that has been produced strikingly resembles a face which is crying profusely, and is thus sometimes known as ‘the weeping face of nature’.
The Three Rondavels
The Three Rondavels are three round, grass-covered mountain tops with somewhat pointed peaks. They resemble the traditional round or oval rondavels or African homesteads quite closely, which are made with local materials.
The names of the peaks commemorate a 19th century chief, Maripi, and three of his wives. The flat-topped peak adjacent to the rondavels is Mapjaneng, “the chief”, who is remembered for opposing invading Swazis in a memorable battle. The three rondavels are named for three of his more troublesome wives – Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and Maseroto. Behind the rondavels the distant high plateau of Mariepskop may be visible. Beside the dam, the isolated Thabaneng hill is known as the “sundial” or “mountain with a shadow that moves”. It is said that the position of its shadow indicates the time of day.
On a clear day the lookout point provides extensive views. From here one looks over the canyon to the Three Rondavels on the other side, which is flanked on various sides by promontories of the northern Drakensberg range.
The formation of the attractive sedimentary formations are explained geologically as the slow erosion of underlying soft stone, leaving the exposed the more resistant quartzite and shale rondavels.
Is a gravity-arch dam on the Blyde River, in the lower Blyde River Canyon, near Hoedspruit in Mpumalanga, South Africa. It also floods the lower reaches of the Blyde’s Ohrigstad River tributary. The dam was completed in 1974. The 71 m high dam wall and 22 m deep is situated 3 km from Swadini resort by road.
The dam itself, when full, is at an altitude of 665m.
Purpose of the dam
Its key purpose is to provide a stable water supply for irrigators of the Blyde River Irrigation district and to provide additional water for mining and industry at Phalaborwa