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WWhether you want to white-water raft down exhilarating rapids, or want to relax in a luxurious guesthouse overlooking the soothing water, the Vaal River is a water-lover’s paradise.
When you first see the Vaal River you’ll probably notice its unique colour. The Dutch named it Vaal, which means “drab” or “dull”, because of its brown-grey colour. But they obviously weren’t into water sports. These days, there’s nothing dull about the river at all.
The Vaal River is divided into three areas: the Upper Vaal, Middle Vaal and the Lower Vaal.
If you’re looking for fun with a luxurious spin, you’re probably the Upper Vaal type. Situated between Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark, expensive real estate and fancy guesthouses line the banks. Come here year-round to enjoy everything from fly fishing to speed boats, slow cruises to fine dining.
IIf you like to canoe, fish, paddle-boat, power-boat, jet-ski, or kite surf, the Vaal Dam has 880km of shoreline to set off from. For adrenaline junkies looking for the biggest – and trickiest – rapids, head to the area between Parys and Christiana, where you’ll encounter insane rapids created by the hundreds of islands throughout the river.
TThe Middle Vaal is mainly used for agricultural purposes and spans most of Free State, while the Lower Vaal is found between the Bloemhof Dam and the confluence of the Vaal and Orange rivers.
Historically, the Vaal was used to decide borders between provinces and was the site of many bloody battles. It is the main tributary of the Orange (Gariep) River and supplies water to the country’s industrial heartland, as well as to Joburg and Pretoria.
To find its source, head to Klipkapstel in Mpumalanga. From there the Vaal flows all the way to Douglas in the Northern Cape, where it meets the mighty Orange River and flows west into the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay.