The Wildebeest's guide to South Africa

Vaal River

Afrikaans name: Vaalrivier

Vaal River as it flows past Villiers

Vaal River

Photo © Steven Herbert


The indigenous Kora Khoikhoi people had referred to the river as Tky-gariep which means drab river. Vaal is the Afrikaans word for drab or dull. This is a reference to the brown colour of the river caused by the silt that it carries, particularly when in flood.

The Vaal River is one of the major rivers in South Africa; only the Orange and Limpopo Rivers are longer. Amazingly it begins its journey in the east of South Africa near Ermelo and Breyten, and flows towards the west where it eventually joins the Orange River.

The length of the Vaal River is 1,120 km. The river flows through or separates a number of provinces - Mpumalanga, Gauteng, North West Province, Free State and Northern Cape. The river feeds the Vaal Dam near Deneysville, south of Johannesburg. This massive dam has a surface area of around 320 square kilometres.

Water from this river is used to supply millions of residents of the greater Johannesburg area. It also supplies water to a number of irrigation schemes as well as a number of mines and power plants.

Vaal River near Ermelo

Photo © Steven Herbert

What memories do you have of the Vaal River?

References and further reading

Things ewe never knewe about South African place names - Author: Ann Gadd - Published: 2015 - Page: 213

Southern Africa from the Highway - Author: AA RSA - Published: 1991 - Page: 126

On Route - Explore South Africa region by region - 3rd edition - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 2014 - Page: 342

Getaway - Vol 31 No 09 - Author: - Published: 2019 - Page: 89

On Route - A region by region guide to South Africa - Author: B.P.J. Erasmus - Published: 1995 - Page: 241

Conollys Guide to Southern Africa - 2nd edition - Author: Denis Conolly - Published: 1982 - Page: 268


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