South Africa's longest and major river.
Rising in the Drakensberg in Lesotho (where it is known as the Senqu) it flows westward for 2200km, where it finally reaches the Atlantic Ocean at Alexander Bay.
At the source of the Orange River in Lesotho the rainfall is 2000mm per annum. It decreases westwards so that at its mouth, rainfall is less than 50 mm per annum. Evaporation also increases in a westerly direction.
The total catchment area of the Orange River (including that of a major tributary, the Vaal) is 973 000 km2 (which is 77% of the land area of the entire South Africa: 1 268 535 km2). Approximately 366 000 km2 (38%) are however situated outside the country in Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.
The Orange feeds the Gariep dam, which at 6 billion cubic metres, is the country's largest reservoir. This dam, near Colesberg, is the main storage structure on the Orange River. From there the water is supplied in two directions, namely westward along the Orange River (via hydro-electric power generators) to the Vanderkloof Dam, and southward through the Orange-Fish Tunnel to the Eastern Cape. Irrigation, that turned thousands of hectares of arid land into highly productive agricultural land, was made possible by the construction of the Vanderkloof Dam below the Gariep Dam. Old established irrigation schemes such as those to be found at Buchuberg, Upington, Kakamas and Vioolsdrif have also benefitted because of the regulation of river flows.
Eskom operates hydro-electric power-stations at both the Gariep and the Vanderkloof Dams. The hydro-electric power station at the Vanderkloof Dam was the first power-generation station in South Africa situated entirely underground.
Irrigation in the Eastern Cape has also received a tremendous boost, not only from the additional water which is being made available but also form the improvement in water quality.
Orange River rafting is done through the Richtersveldt desert. The area offers unique fauna and flora, rock formations and perfect all year temperatures. This is truly one of the purest adventure trails in Southern Africa. The Gariep River or “great river” as it is called by the local Nama people offers a unique outdoor experience to those you seek tranquillity and adventure. The Orange River cuts through the Richtersveldt desert reserve and is now part of the Transfrontier transformation parks in Africa. The days are spent with early morning paddling, swimming, floating, bird watching and negotiating some rapids and fast flowing water. Guides will take you through the steps of paddling through rapids, hiking some mountains and in general discover the eco system of the desert.
Orange River Facts:
* The total catchment of the Orange River (including the Vaal) extends over 973 000 square km, i.e. about 77% of the land area of the country. Approx 366 000 square km (38%) however is situated outside the country in Lesotho, Botswana and Namibia.
* The river is 2,090 km long
* The Vaal River is its chief tributary.
* The lower Orange River flows through Namaqualand and the Ai-Ais Richtersveld Transfrontier Park and in very dry years it does not reach the sea.
* At the mouth of the river are rich alluvial diamond beds.
* The Augrabies Falls is 122 m high and largest waterfall in the river and situated within the Augrabies Falls National Park.
* The river is used extensively for irrigation.