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WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa


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Nels / Mpumalanga / South Africa

Nels River – Nelspruit section

Nels River – Nelspruit section
Grading III (IV-)
Levels / gauges Nels @ Boschrand (Inkomati)Low – Below 7Medium – 7 to 12

High – 12 to 17

Pumping – 20 and up.

Put-in 25°24’50.24″S ; 30°56’51.59″E
Take-out 25°26’3.79″S ; 30°58’11.15″E
Estimated time 2 – 3 hrs (You can push it in 1.5hrs)
Length 7.2 km
Gradient 15m/km (steeper sections with middle 4km, 20m/km,  taking up the gradient)
Portages Yes
Hazards / Notes Logs / Thick tree growth on banks
Fun factor 3.0 / 5

The Nels River is perfect for a run on the way to or from a weekend away.  It is located within Nelspruit and the take-out is at the region shopping mall.  There are only a couple of rapids on this section, but the length and the nature of the rapids make it worthwhile.  You can get down this section in less than two hours if you have done it before.  The section can be made longer by paddling to the confluence with the Crocodile River at the botanical gardens (Warning – access is a problem to get out so you will either have to sneak it or walk back along the top back to the shopping mall).

To get to the put-in, drive out on the R37.   When you cross under the N4, carry-on for 2.5km and you will see a turn-off on your right (there is a railway crossing sign).  Go onto the dirt road and keep right at the split.  After you cross the railway there is a parking spot on your left and you can walk to the weir from there.  The take-out is at the back of the shopping mall.

The put-in is at the top of weir.  This is hippo country so get in right at the weir and don’t hang around upstream of it. You can run the sloped weir pretty much anywhere, but it will depend on the water levels.  When in doubt, get in at the bottom of the weir.  There is also a put-in a little further down the road at a bridge.

The first set of rapids is a nice warm-up.  The first rapid worth having a look at is also a portage on lower levels due to a pinnacle rock right in the middle of the slot at the bottom.  The rapid is about 500m downstream of the bridge.   You can scout it from the left and also portage left.  The next rapid is also a portage due to a tight slot at the end.  It has been run to right above the last drop (tight slot) with live-bait to catch the paddler (desperate measures).

The next set of rapids is a sequence of slides.  This is the reason to paddle this river.  Best is to scout from the right hand bank.  Note that when the water is up, it gets pretty difficult to see your line.  This is when the flow is around 20cumecs.

After this the river starts channelling through trees, so be careful of strainers and keep a good following distance.  You can get out at the highway bridge next to the shopping mall or continue on to the confluence with the Crocodile River.  There is a set of rapids right at the end worth checking out if you have time. Getting out paddling down to the Crocodile River get tricky and you might have to hike back along the Nels to the shopping mall.

The Nels is nice in the sense that you can sneak this run in either to or on the way back from other rivers.

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