Blyde River Canyon

The Blyde River Canyon, officially the Motlatse Canyon is a significant natural feature of South Africa, located in Mpumalanga, and forming the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. Located in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, it is 25 kilometres (16 mi) in length and is, on average, around 750 metres (2,461 ft) deep. The Blyderivierpoort Dam, when full, is at an altitude of 665 metres (2,182 ft). The canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. The highest point of the canyon, Mariepskop, is 1,944 metres (6,378 ft) above sea level, whilst its lowest point where the river leaves the canyon is slightly less than 561 metres (1,841 ft) above sea level. This means that by some measure the canyon is 1,383 metres (4,537 ft) deep.

Blyde River Canyon. The Three Rondavels are seen to the right of the center of this view.

While it is difficult to compare canyons world-wide, Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth, and it may be the largest 'green canyon' due to its lush subtropical foliage. It has some of the deepest precipitous cliffs of any canyon on the planet. It is the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon, and is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent.

Possibly the best view in the whole of the Blyde River Canyon is of the "Three Rondavels", huge, round rocks, thought to be reminiscent of the houses or huts of the indigenous people, known as rondavels. This canyon is part of the Panorama Route. This route starts at the town Graskop and includes God's Window, the Pinnacle and Bourke's Luck Potholes.


Blyde means "glad" or "happy"[1] 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 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'.

In 2005, the Blyde River was renamed to the Motlatse River, and the Mpumalanga Provincial Government announced that the canyon would be renamed as well. [2]

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, including the beautiful and much sought Narina trogon as well as species such as the Cape vulture, black eagle, crowned eagle, African fish eagle, gymnogene, jackal buzzard, white-rumped vulture, bald ibis, African finfoot, Knysna lourie, purple-crested lourie, Gurney's sugarbird, malachite sunbird, cinnamon dove, African emerald cuckoo, red-backed mannikin, golden-tailed woodpecker, olive bush shrike, green twinspot, Taita falcons (very rarely sighted, a breeding pair lives in the nearby Abel Erasmus Pass), Cape eagle owl, white-faced owl, wood owl, peregrine falcon, black-breasted snake eagle, Wahlberg's eagle, long-crested eagle, lanner falcon, red-breasted sparrowhawk, rock kestrel and others.

Kadishi waterfall

At 200 metres (660 ft), 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 canyon and the surrounding Drakensberg escarpment is a very popular tourist region with a well-developed tourism industry supported by good public infrastructure.

See also


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