Blyde River

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Motlatse River
Blyde River
BlydeRiverSouthAfrica (7).JPG
Motlatse River passing through a sandstone gorge below the Treur confluence
South Africa relief location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Location of the Blyde-Olifants confluence
Native nameMotlatse River
Country South Africa
State Mpumalanga & Limpopo
Physical characteristics
  location Hartebeesvlakte
  elevation2,000 m (6,600 ft)
Olifants River, South Africa
24°15′17″S30°49′47″E / 24.25472°S 30.82972°E / -24.25472; 30.82972 Coordinates: 24°15′17″S30°49′47″E / 24.25472°S 30.82972°E / -24.25472; 30.82972
Basin size2,842 km2 (1,097 sq mi)

The Motlatse River [1] ("Permanent River"), Blyde River (Afrikaans : Blyderivier "Glad River"), or Umdhlazi River [2] is a river in the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces of South Africa. It has a northwards course in steep-sided valleys and ravines of the Mpumalanga Drakensberg, before it enters the lowveld region of the Limpopo province. It has its ultimate origins at around 2,000 m altitude in the Hartebeesvlakte conservation area, to the north of Long Tom Pass. It runs through the Blyde River Canyon.



The Blyde, meaning "glad", "joyous" or "happy" [3] in Cape Dutch, was thus named during a voortrekker expedition. This occurred 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 river near their encampment, Treurrivier, or 'mourning river'. The name Motlatse is said to predate the name Blyde, and means 'a river that is always full' in the sePulana dialect of Northern Sotho. [4] [5]


Of the catchment area of 2,842 km², 220 km² is devoted to commercial forestry, and around 1,399 km² consists of indigenous forests. [6] Orchards and croplands were established along the lower Blyde in the latter half of the 20th century, with 23,521 ha devoted to irrigation in 1995. [6] The Hartebeesvlakte, Mount Sheba Nature Reserve, Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve and Blyde-Olifants Conservancy protect different sections of it.


In the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve it is joined by several rivers or streams. The Treur River joins the Blyde at Bourke's Luck Potholes, in the canyon's upper reaches. Downstream it is joined by the Belvedere and Ga-nogakgolo creeks.

The now defunct Belvedere power station (at 24°39′18″S30°50′12″E / 24.65500°S 30.83667°E / -24.65500; 30.83667 (Belvedere power station) ) is situated at the confluence of the Blyde and Belvedere. From 1911 [7] up to 1992 it supplied hydro-electric power to Pilgrim's Rest and adjacent communities. [8] A day hiking trail of some 10 km allows a visitor to explore this area. [7] [9]

The Ohrigstad River joins the Blyde River at the Blyderivierpoort Dam. The river branches into several irrigation canals once it enters the lowveld. The Sandspruit is its only significant lowveld tributary, not far from the Olifants confluence.

Downstream course and contribution

The Klein Olifants, Steelpoort and Blyde Rivers are southern tributaries of the Olifants River, which enters the Kruger National Park and neighbouring private game reserves, eventually crossing the Mozambique border, where it flows into the Massingir Dam. The Blyde's average annual contribution to the Olifants is 436 million m3 of water, [6] [10] a significant proportion due to the combination of relatively high precipitation and low evaporation in its catchment area. [6]

Fish species

Exotic fish like smallmouth bass, largemouth bass, brown trout and rainbow trout occur in the river, which have reduced the range of the local Treur River barb to upper catchments of the Blyde River system. [11] Thanks to reintroductions after its rediscovery in the 1970s, the Treur River barb now flourishes. [12] The Natal mountain catfish, Amphilius natalensis, occurs as an isolated population in the Limpopo system, and the Belvedere creek is the only place in the Limpopo system where the Rosefin barb, Barbus argenteus, is found. [12] Smallscale yellowfish and largescale yellowfish are also found in the lower reaches of the river.[ citation needed ]

See also

Related Research Articles

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Pilgrims Rest, South Africa Place in Mpumalanga, South Africa

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Phalaborwa Place in Limpopo, South Africa

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Olifants River (Limpopo)

The Olifants River, Lepelle or Obalule is a river in South Africa and Mozambique, a tributary of the Limpopo River. It falls into the Drainage Area B of the Drainage basins of South Africa. The historical area of the Pedi people, Sekhukhuneland, is located between the Olifants River and one of its largest tributaries, the Steelpoort River.

Olifants River (Western Cape)

The Olifants River is a river in the northwestern area of the Western Cape Province of South Africa. The upper and main catchment area of the Olifants river is around Ceres and the Cederberg mountains. The Clanwilliam and Bulshoek dams are located on the river and provide water for the towns and farms along the watercourse. The river is approximately 285 km long with a catchment area of 46,220 km2 and flows into the Atlantic Ocean at Papendorp, 250 km north of Cape Town.

Blyde River Canyon Large canyon in South Africa

The Blyde River Canyon is a 26km long Canyon located in Mpumalanga, South Africa. It is the third-largest canyon on Earth, behind the Grand Canyon and the Fish River Canyon. Unlike the Grand and Fish River Canyon, the Blyde River Canyon is a "green canyon" which is dominated by subtropical vegetation.

Clanwilliam yellowfish Species of fish

The Clanwilliam yellowfish is a ray-finned fish species in the family Cyprinidae. It has long been placed in Barbus, the "wastebin genus" for barbs, by default; however, the species is increasingly being restored to related yellowfish genus Labeobarbus which seems a much more appropriate placement. It is hexaploid like the other yellowfish, among which it is more closely related to the smallscale yellowfish than to the largescale yellowfish.

Largemouth yellowfish Species of fish

The largemouth yellowfish or Vaal-Orange largemouth yellowfish is a ray-finned fish species in the family Cyprinidae. This large freshwater barb is found in southern Africa.

The Treur River barb or simply Treur barb is a species of cyprinid fish. It is endemic to northern Mpumalanga, South Africa.

<i>Protea laetans</i> Species of flowering plant in the family Proteaceae

Protea laetans, the Blyde River protea or Blyde sugarbush, is a localized plant of the family Proteaceae. It was recognised as a species in 1970, and is endemic to the Blyde River Canyon of the Mpumalanga escarpment, South Africa. The slender plants are up to 5m tall and flower from mid to late summer. The bracts of their closed flower heads are shiny and silvery in appearance. They are most easily viewed near the F.H. Odendaal camp of the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Laetans means joyous, i.e. Blyde.

The Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) Board is a governmental organisation responsible for maintaining wilderness areas and public nature reserves in Mpumalanga Province, South Africa.

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve

Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve is situated in the 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.

Blyderivierpoort Dam Dam in Mpumalanga

Blyderivierpoort Dam 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.

Ohrigstad River

Ohrigstad River is located in Mpumalanga, South Africa. The Ohrigstad River joins the Blyde River at the Blyderivierpoort Dam in the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. Like the Blyde, it has its ultimate origin at around 2,000 m altitude to the south, on the verge of the Hartebeesvlakte conservation area, but follows a more westerly course.

The Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region is a biosphere reserve situated in the north eastern region of South Africa, straddling Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces. In 2001, under the supervision of the then Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), the Kruger to Canyons Biosphere Region was officially ratified by UNESCO as part of the Man and the Biosphere (MaB) Programme. UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme provides a framework for exploring local solutions to challenges by mainstreaming biodiversity conservation and sustainable development, integrating economic, social and environmental aspects and recognizing their vital linkages within specific learning landscapes adjacent to Protected Areas.

Treur River

The Treur River is a small river in the Drakensberg escarpment region of eastern Mpumalanga province, South Africa. The R532 motor route intersects it twice. Its ultimate origin is inside the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve, though most of its course is to the west of this protected area. It is a tributary of the Blyde River, and has no major tributaries of its own. There are two sharp drops in its course, at Poe Falls 24°45′S30°52′E and Bourke's Luck Potholes respectively.

Shingwedzi River

The Shingwedzi River, is a river in Limpopo Province, South Africa and Gaza Province, Mozambique. It is a left hand tributary of the Olifants River (Rio dos Elefantes) and the northernmost river of its catchment area, joining it at the lower end of its basin. The Shingwedzi is a seasonal river whose riverbed is dry for prolonged periods.


Mariepskop, at 1,947 m above sea level, is one of the highest peaks in the northern Drakensberg, and the highest point of the Blyde River Canyon, South Africa. It is situated at the junction of three conservation areas, namely the Mariepskop Forest Reserve, Mariepskop State Forest, and the Blyde River Canyon Nature Reserve. The mountain is bordered by sheer cliff faces on several sides, and is composed of Proterozoic sedimentary rocks of the Transvaal Supergroup. It is named for the 19th century Pulana chief, Maripe Mashile, whose tribe used the mountain as a stronghold. Some infrastructure and roads were built in the 1950s to service a military radar station. Mariepskop is flanked by Tshwateng (1,628 m) at the opposite side of the Blyde River, and by Hebronberg (1,767 m) in the south.

Panorama Route

The Panorama Route is a scenic road in South Africa connecting several cultural and natural points of interest. The route, steeped in the history of South Africa, is in Mpumalanga province, centred around the Blyde River Canyon, the world's third largest canyon. It features numerous waterfalls, one of the largest afforested areas in South Africa, and several natural landmarks. The route starts at the foot of the Long Tom Pass just outside Lydenburg, following the natural descent from the Great Escarpment to the Lowveld, and ending at the border of the Mpumalanga and Limpopo provinces near the Echo Caves.

Phugwane River

The Phugwane River is a river in Limpopo Province, South Africa. It is a left hand tributary of the Shingwedzi River and the northernmost river of its catchment area, joining it in the middle of its basin. The Phugwane is a seasonal river whose riverbed is dry for prolonged periods.


  1. Olifants River now called Lepelle
  2. Bulpin, T.V. (2012). Lost Trails of the Lowveld. Pretoria: Protea. p. 42. ISBN   978-1-86919-555-7.
  3. "Dictionary of Southern African Place Names" by RE Raper - HSRC
  4. AENS (1 June 2005), "Blyde Canyon gets new name", Daily Sun, p. 8, archived from the original on 25 April 2012
  5. Jenkins, Elwyn (2007), Falling into place: the story of modern South African place names, David Philip Publishers, p. 75
  6. 1 2 3 4 International Water Management Institute (IWMI) (September 2008), Olifants River Basin in South Africa (PDF), waternetonline, p. 37, archived from the original (PDF) on 2012-04-03
  7. 1 2 "The Belvedere Day Walk". Trails and walks. Mpumalanga Parks Board. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  8. Viljoen, Buks (17 March 2011). "'Sakesektor moet help met krag'". Beeld. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  9. "Belvedere Day Hike". Blyde River Canyon: Sights & Activities. Archived from the original on 24 December 2013. Retrieved 24 December 2013.
  10. WSAM database - Schultz and Watson, 2002
  11. J.; R. Engelbrecht & R. Bills (2007). "Barbus treurensis". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species . 2007. Retrieved 8 December 2011.
  12. 1 2 "The Olifants River System, Ecoregions 4.03 & 4.05". State of the Rivers Report, South African River Health Programme. Water Affairs. Retrieved 25 December 2013.