The Orange River, South Africa's major river, rises in the Drakensberg in Lesotho, where it is known as the Senqu. From where the river leaves Lesotho, it flows westward for some 2200km to where it finally flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay.
At the source of the Orange River the rain fall is approximately 2000mm per annum and decreases as the river flows westward. At its mouth the rainfall is less than 50 mm per annum. Evaporation, on the other hand, increases in a westerly direction.
From Lesotho's border to below the VanderKloof Dam the river bed is deeply incised. Further downstream the land is low-lying with large areas under irrigation.
The Gariep Dam, near Colesberg, is the main storage structure within the Orange River. From here the water is supplied in two directions, namely westward along the Orange River (via hydro-electric power generators) to the Vanderkloof Dam, and southward through the Orange-Fish Tunnel to the Eastern Cape.
The villages surrounding both dams offers excellent overnight stops and the Gariep Dam Accommodation and the Vanderkloof Dam Accommodation options are typical of the country side.
Irrigation, that turned thousands of hectares of arid land into highly productive agricultural land, was made possible by the construction of the Vanderkloof Dam below the Gariep Dam. Old established irrigation schemes such as those to be found at Buchuberg, Upington, Kakamas and Vioolsdrif have also benefitted because of the regulation of river flows.
Eskom operates hydro-electric power-stations at both the Gariep and the Vanderkloof Dams. The hydro-electric power station at the Vanderkloof Dam was the first power-generation station in South Africa situated entirely underground.
Irrigation in the Eastern Cape has also received a tremendous boost, not only from the additional water which is being made available but also form the improvement in water quality.
Orange River rafting is done through the Richtersveldt desert. The area offers unique fauna and flora, rock formations and perfect all year temperatures.
This is truly one of the purest adventure trails in Southern Africa. The Gariep River or great river as it is called by the local Nama people offers a unique outdoor experience to those you seek tranquillity and adventure. The Orange River cuts through the Richtersveldt desert reserve and is now part of the Transfrontier transformation parks in Africa.
The days are spent with early morning paddling, swimming, floating, bird watching and negotiating some rapids and fast flowing water. Guides will take you through the steps of paddling through rapids, hiking some mountains and in general discover the eco system of the desert.
Orange River Facts
* The total catchment of the Orange River (including the Vaal) extends over 973 000 square km, i.e. about 77% of the land area of the country. Approx 366 000 square km (38%) however is situated outside the country in Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.
* The river is 2,090 km long
* The Vaal River is its chief tributary.
* The lower Orange River flows through Namaqualand and the Ai-Ais Richtersveld National Park and in very dry years it does not reach the sea.
* At the mouth of the river are rich alluvial diamond beds.
* The Augrabies Falls is 122 m high and largest waterfall in the river and situated within the Augrabies Falls National Park.
* The river is used extensively for irrigation.
Accommodation along the River
* Accommodation in Aliwal North
* Accommodation in Gariep Dam
* Accommodation in Upington
* Accommodation in Kakamas
* Accommodation in Augrabies