WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa

Steelpoort / Mpumalanga / South Africa

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Steelpoort River

Grading III+  (IV when the water is high)
Levels / gauges Steelpoort @ Buffelskloof (Olifants)

Low – 10 to 20

Medium – 20 to 35

High – 35 to 50

Pumping – 50 up

Put-in 25°16’39.66″S ; 29°48’56.37″E
Take-out 25° 9’29.96″S ; 29°50’35.38″E
Estimated time 5 – 7hrs
Length 34km
Gradient 10m/km (There are slightly steeper in the middle)
Portages None
Hazards / Notes Continuous III / long day on the river / wildlife
Fun factor 3.5 / 5

The Steelpoort is located close to Gauteng which makes it easy for paddlers in this area to head through for the day.  It takes about 2 – 3hrs to get to the put-in from Johannesburg.  From Middelburg take the R555.  From the R555 take the R579, 8km from the R579 turn-off onto a gravel road on your right (district gravel road).Follow the gravel road until you cross the Steelpoort and the pu-in.  To get to the take-out, carry-on over the Steelpoort and turn left at the t-junction.  Follow the dirt road until you cross the low level bridge (river will be on your left) and then look-out for Bon Amanzi lodge.  This is the normal take-out.  Pay for access for take-out here.

The Steelpoort is not a technical river since all the rapids are easy to boat scout, but the section is long and fairly continuous (it really picks-up when the water is up).  The rapids are generally in the class III range, but the long day on the river and the continuous nature pushes it into the low IV’s.  Creek boats are commonly used due to the length of the section and for comfort sake, but there are some mild play waves on this section.

At the start there are a couple of trees you need to look-out for (specifically after a flood), but it should be easy to spot strainers and eddy out in time.  Something that is constantly changing on the Steelpoort is fences across the river.  The fences are put-up in the dry season to keep live-stock in-side the properties.  DO NOT CUT ANY FENCES.  Keep an eye open for fences crossing the river and portage/duck-under where required.  Check for updates on fence positions and statuses.

The largest rapid on this section is Tonsillitis.   The main line is on the right which is a pour-over with a bit of a suck-back.  The line is open if you have a solid boof to clear the suck-back (safety best on river right).  An easier line is on the left (portage on the left-hand bank).

The Steelpoort is whole lot of fun and worth heading through if the water is up.  It has become a great river for intermediates looking to get exposed to some continuous, but easy to read rapids.

One last thing about the Steelpoort; the local farmers have mentioned that there are hippos on the section of river.  Now I don’t know if the locals are taking the piss out of the kayakers (I haven’t seen any hippos on the section, nor have I heard of other guys running into them), but keep it in mind and just look-out for any activity.

Besides the scenery and the continuous rapids, the other highlight about the Steelpoort is the view and cold beers at the end.


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