WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa

Sabie/ Section U3 / Mpumalanga / South Africa

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Sabie River – Upper, upper, upper Sabie (U3)

Sabie River – U3
Grading IV- (V- for high flows)
Levels / gauges Sabie @ Sabie (Inkomati)Low – 5to 10Medium – 10 to 15

High – 15 to 20

Pumping – 20 and up.

Put-in 25° 4’26.10″S ; 30°51’2.97″E
Take-out 25° 3’45.73″S ; 30°54’28.27″E
Estimated time 5 hrs(can be done in 3hrs if you know the section)
Length 7.2 km
Gradient 20m/km (steeper sections with middle 4km taking up the gradient)
Portages Yes
Hazards / Notes Logs / Thick tree growth on banks
Fun factor 3.5 / 5

The U3, as it is known in SA paddling circles, is not the popular of the three upper Sabie section probably because of the portage around a waterfall.  There is some pretty good action on the stretch and can be combined with the U2 to make it worthwhile.

Access is easy and along the Sabie/Hazyview road.  Put-in at the low level bridge.  If the water is overflowing the bridge then the water is high.  Best to run this section in a group of three (because of the portage), where large groups can take a long time to portage.

First real obstacle is a weir (about 900m in).  The weir is sloped and can be run, but scout first.  Best place to portage is over the logs on river right.  After this you get to a bridge (900m).  The section to here is pretty flat except for the weir.  The gradient picks-up from here and scout/eddy hop down the rapids.  A fairly steep rapid leads into the portage rapid.  The portage starts on a sharp bend to the left.  The rapid at the bend looks runnable, but after the rapid you are boxed in by the walls and the waterfall follows.  Get out at the 90 degree bend to the left.  Scramble up the cliffs and follow the over grown path along the river.  To get back into the river, follow the river to about 100m downstream on the waterfall itself.  There is a short abseil of about 5m back into the water.  The water is shallow so don’t jump.  If you wade a bit upstream, there is a little island to regroup and have a look at the falls.

Immediately after the portage there is a runnable waterfall (6m).  The drop can be scouted from the left.  Note that the waterfall is a must run and can dish out a hiding if you are off line.

The last significant rapid is a slot rapid.  The rapid is also at a sharp bend to the left in the river.  Scout from the left.  There is a nasty undercut on the left in the last section of the rapid.  If you line-up your entry, you will breeze through the rapid.  Otherwise opt for the dodgy seal launch from the side to portage the rapid.

There are some sweet rapids on this section that can be scouted from your boat.  Most of the logs are trapped above the weir, but take care and have a look when in doubt.  The last 1km is pretty tame and flat to the low level bridge.  Take out is at the next low level bridge or carry on and do the U2.


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