10 Green Facts About The Blyde River Canyon

Some of the most amazing canyons in the world mostly consist of steep rock formations carved into the desolate landscape by a river.

While the latter part is true for this particular canyon as well, there’s something special about it that clearly distinguishes it from the likes of the Grand Canyon and the Fish River Canyon, to name just a few.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the most interesting facts about the Blyde River Canyon, a beautiful natural landmark in South Africa.

1. It’s located in the northeastern part of South Africa

The Blyde River Canyon is one of the natural wonders of South Africa and is located in the Mpumalanga Province. This is situated in the northeastern part of the country.

Even though the area looks to be quite remote, it’s fairly well developed with roads leading up to all the small villages that are located within the vicinity of the canyon and various lookout points.

The capital of the province is Mbombela and is located directly south of the canyon at a distance of approximately 60 kilometers (40 miles).

This also means that there are restaurants, hotels, and tours available to discover this magnificent natural attraction.

Blyde River Canyon facts
Aerial view of the canyon / Stefan Schäfer / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

2. The views inside the canyon are breathtaking for a special reason

Unlike many other famous canyons in the world, this one is located in a subtropical region. This means that the area is for the most part covered with dense vegetation.

We can therefore describe this particular canyon as a “green canyon,” a feature that definitely adds to the natural beauty of the region.

3. It’s huge but still smaller than some of its famous counterparts

The canyon has a length of 26 kilometers (16 miles) which makes it one of the largest canyons in the world.

Its cliffs reach a maximum height of 762 meters (2,500 feet) which is quite amazing as well.

This is still much smaller than some of the biggest canyons in the world, though. To give some reference to these numbers, the Grand Canyon in the United States has a total length of 446 kilometers (277 miles) and a maximum depth of 1,857 meters (6,093 feet).

The Fish River Canyon in Namibia, located on the other side of the southern part of Africa, has a total length of 160 kilometers (1,804 feet) but is less deep at 550 meters (1,804 feet).

Regardless of these numbers, all of these natural wonders look pretty amazing, that’s for sure!

Blyde Rver canyon cliff
View from inside the canyon / Ptosio / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

4. It was formed by a river with the same name

Canyons are formed by rivers carving their way through the landscape. They can also be formed from weathering and the erosive power of rainwater.

As the name of the Blyde River Canyon suggests, it was formed by the Blyde River which flows north through the Drakensberg region. This is the eastern portion of the so-called “Great Escarpment” which encloses the South African Plateau.

Even though this river doesn’t look that impressive, it still managed to carve its way through this magnificent landscape in a process that took millions of years.

5. It’s home to an amazing rock formation

The views inside the canyon are nothing short of spectacular, but one feature (or should we say 3) really sticks out. We’re talking about a rock formation referred to as the “Three Rondavels.”

These are 3 round, yet pointy rock formations located within the canyon. This formation was named after typically African houses called “rondavels,” which obviously have the same shape as these huge peaks.

The meals, on the other hand, were named after 3 of the naughtiest wives of a local chief who lived here in the 19th century called Magabolle, Mogoladikwe and, Maseroto.

As the rest of the canyon, these fascinating natural miracles look astounding.

Three rondavels blyde river canyon
View of the Three Rondavels / Claudirene / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

More interesting facts about the Blyde River Canyon

6. The name of the canyon and the river that flows through it was given by Dutch colonists known as “Voortrekkers.” The name” Blyde” literally translates to “Happy” from Old Dutch. This word now changed to “Blij” in modern-day Dutch.

There’s another river nearby that was called the “Treur River.” This means “Mourning River” and is a reference to the group of Voortrekkers who resumed some of their colleagues were dead. When they realized they were mistaken, they quickly named the other river they encountered “Blyde River.”

7. Regardless of this great name, the name of the river was changed to “Motlatse River” back in 2005.

Aerial view of the Blyde river canyon
Aerial view of the canyon / Javier Puig Ochoa / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/deed.en

This translates to “Permanent River.” Both names are still used to define the river and the canyon as well, even though the latter wasn’t made official.

8. Another great feature inside the canyon is the amazing waterfall known as the “Kadishi waterfall.” This is the second-tallest tufa waterfall in the world at a height of 200 meters (660 feet).

This waterfall, like all other similar types of tufa waterfalls, was formed because the water that runs over dolomite absorbs calcium. This has resulted in a magnificent spectacle known as the “Weeping Face of Nature.”

Kadishi waterfall
The Kadishi Waterfall / Ptosio / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

9. The number of animals living inside the canyon is really amazing. Apart from the large number so fish swimming in the Blyde River, the canyon is also home to crocodiles, monkeys, and even hippos.

Just like the Colca Canyon in southern Peru, it’s also a popular place to spot birds. These include vultures, eagles, and several species of owls, including the Cape eagle owl, white-faced owl, and wood owl.

10. There are multiple viewing platforms along the canyon and the most popular way to explore the region is to hike. The canyon is a prominent part of the magnificent “Panorama Route.”

Because of the amazing natural beauty in the area, the Blyde River Nature Reserve which is centered around the canyon has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the region.

Blyde river canyon fun facts