WW kayaking guide to rivers in South Africa

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Particle Accelerator Section / Usuthu River / Swaziland

Usuthu River – Particle Accelerator Section

Usuthu River – Particle Accelerator Section

Grading IV – Grading lower if water is low.

At high levels Particle Accelerator goes up to a V with the section towards the prison being IV+.

Levels / gauges No gauges.

Possibly dam level on South African Side.

Check rain prediction for area and/or get hold of operators in Swaziland.

Put-in 26° 34.185’S ; 31° 5.018’E
Take-out 26° 35.295’S ; 31° 10.459’E
Estimated time 3 – 5hrs

(Short section can be done in 2hrs)

Length 13km total section

7km to short take-out

Gradient 15m/km
Portages None (possible weir before knife-edge)
Hazards / Notes Weir / Ledge holes
Fun factor 4 / 5

The putting is just off the MR18 on your way to Bhunya.  The put-in as at a weir and this allows for a bit of warm-up before the section kicks-off.  The section consists of steep sections and then flat pools.  The flat sections tend to be manageable in medium to high water levels, but can get bony on low levels.  An alternative put-in is just above Particle Accelerator (26° 34.816’S ; 31° 5.817’E).

There are two take-out options.  For the full section carry, on past the woman’s prison and take-out on the left bank.  The road to the take-out is off the MR4.  The shorter take-out is just past the round-about (heading east) where the road runs close to the river again.

This section is really great if the water is up and can be done as a short run if you have limited time.  The section starts out from the weir at the put-in.  Jump in below the weir and warm-up on the flattish section until you reach Window Shopper.  At low levels this rapid is more shallow channels, but at high water it turns into long continues rapid with several holes and pour-overs.  You can scout from the side, but it is possible to boat scout and pick your line down.

Next rapid worth a mention is Particle Accelerator.  AT medium and low levels work your way towards the centre channel and scout.  At higher levels the centre channel closes and the channel far left opens up.  Take your time and scout properly.  There are some pinning possibilities at low/medium levels.


(Particle Accelerator – Left Channel)

Particle Accelerator is followed by some easy rapids and you will pass under a large bridge.  Get ready for the next section of action.  You will know you are approaching Knife Edge when you reach a small weir.  Watch-out for this obstacle since a swim here can lead to you swim down the next set of rapids.  You can scout on the left bank if the water is high or else scout from the right at medium and low levels.


(Knife Edge – medium levels.  Pic by Brendan Bosman)

After the short Knife Edge gorge you have 3km of easy water.  After this you will reach a point where the river shoots into several channels.  Watch out for overgrown channels and possible strainers.  The trick here is to pick the best and deepest channel.  What normally works well is to start right and work your way left until you pass by the Prison on your left.  After the Prison you’ve got about 2km to the take-out.  If you miss the take-out, you can carry on towards the next large bridge (4km from Prison).