Blyde River Canyon

Blyde River Canyon


Location: Mpumalanga Province Map

Length: 15 mi (24 km)

Depth: 2,640 ft (800 m)


Blyde River Canyon is a massive geological formation in a Mpumalanga Province in South Africa. With a length of 15 mi (24 km) and a depth of 2,640 ft (800 m) Blyde River Canyon is second only to the Grand Canyon in the USA. Blyde means "happy", "joyful" or "happy" in Afrikaans . The river was called with this name in 1844, when an expedition of white Afrikaner peasants returned safely from Maputo Bay , in Mozambique , after having camped on the river banks.
Composed mostly of red sandstone, the Blyde River Canyon forms the northern escarpment of the Drakensberg Mountains. Third largest canyon in the world according to the tourist office, reputedly the second largest canyon in Africa (after the Fish River Canyon), the Blyde River Canyon is the fourth tourist attraction in the country, draining nearly a million visitors per year, and one of the most important tourist sites of the province of Mpumalanga with the Kruger National Park. It is particularly located on the scenic route that starts from Graskop and leads to the natural sites of God's Window and Bourke's Luck Potholes.



Located in the northern part of the Drakensberg mountain range, the canyon is 26 kilometers long and 750 meters deep on average. It is crossed by the River Blyde.

The Blyderivierpoort dam is at an altitude of 665 meters. The highest point of the canyon is Mariepskop (1,944 meters) while its lowest point where the river leaves the canyon is slightly lower at 561 meters.



The MaPulane tribe had named the river after Motlatse.

The name Blyde River was given in 1844 by the wives of voortrekkers, who were waiting for their husbands who had left under the leadership of Hendrik Potgieter, in search of a route to Delagoa Bay. Not returning and believing them to be dead, they baptized “Treur River” (river of tears) the river at the edge of which their camp was drawn up. They nevertheless went in search of survivors and it was at the edge of another river that they named “Blyde River” (river of joy), that they found them all alive and well.

The Treur and Blyde meet at Bourke's Luck Potholes before plunging into the Blyde River Canyon.

The Blyde River thus refers to a historical event, an integral part of Afrikaner history.


Touristic site

The most famous view of the canyon is the one overlooking the Three Rondavels, which are reminiscent of African huts (hut: rondavel in Afrikaans).

One of the best views along the canyon is from 'God's Window' near the town of Graskop, which offers a 700m bird's eye view of the lowveld and wildlife reserves near Kruger National Park, as well as the a lush forest.