Course of the River

At 2,200km long, Orange River is the longest river in South Africa.

The river begins its course just 193km into the African hinterland from the Indian Ocean, high in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho. Then it flows westwards through South Africa and along broad stretches of the border with Namibia, where it passes the town of Vioolsdrif, the main border post between South Africa and Namibia.

The river also forms the south-western boundary of South Africa’s Free State. In this section the river flows first into the Gariep Dam (the largest in the country), and later into the Vanderkloof Dam.

From the border of Lesotho to below the Van der Kloof Dam the river bed is cut deep into the jagged valleys and undulating landscape around it. Further downstream the land is flatter, and the river is used extensively for irrigation.

Throughout its journey, the Orange River’s course remains predominantly a wild one; Upington is the only major town that it passes through, with much of the rest of its route set against the backdrops of the arid southern Kalahari and Namaqualand.

And the further west the river runs, the wilder it gets; the last 800km comprises the end of the Namib Desert, the tumbling Augrabies Falls and a short final section that is rendered almost completely inaccessible by severe rapids and sand bars.

Eventually, it finds its way to the mouth of the great Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay, roughly equidistant between Walvis Bay in Namibia and Cape Town in South Africa.