Gariep Dam

History and Overview of Gariep Dam

The Gariep Dam is situated approximately 62 km south of Trompsburg and is the largest expanse of fresh water in the country. It lies on the Orange River, one of the country’s largest rivers, its shoreline extending some 435 kilometres near the towns of Bethulie, Venterstad, Colesberg, Oviston and Aliwal North. The town Gariep Dam, (the youngest town in South Africa) situated alongside the N1, is perhaps better known to most for the manmade Gariep Dam (which is the largest dam in South Africa with a radius of 360 square kilometres) which forms part of the Orange River Development Scheme.

The sheer magnificence of this more than 100km long and 24km wide dam, is indeed sufficient to testify to the exceptional engineering and success of Africa’s largest water supply scheme. The Free State’s largest nature reserve is a combination of the 36 487 ha Gariep Dam on the Orange River and an 11 237 ha game sanctuary on its northern shore. The town’s official status as the Municipality of Verwoerd Dam was proclaimed on 21 April 1994. The name was officially changed on 4 October 1996 to Gariep Dam.

Social and economic functions
The main social and economic functions of the town include: key regional tourist destination, general agricultural service centre to surrounding farming areas, social functions such as residence, education and medical services as well as transport support services on major routes.

Fish Hatchery
The Free State Provincial Government and the People’s Republic of China have embarked on an exciting new project at the !Gariepdam, namely a fish hatchery. China will invest R60 million over three year period. The first phase of the project was launched during October 2009 by the Premier of the Free State, Mr. E.S. Magashule and the Chinese ambassador to South Africa, Zhong Jianhua. The project entails the building of an aqua training and education centre and fish hatchery. Ten aqua tanks – that will eventually grow to 80 – will be used to hatch indiginous fish for the people of the Xhariep district.

The great Orange River project which was started in 1928 gave rise to the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam. The Town and Kampong areas were erected in the early 1960’s. The rural area became known as Oranjekrag and accommodated 3500 people all involved with the construction of the dam wall. The completion date of construction was 31 August 1969


Fish Hatchery
See how Yellow Fish, Carp and Barbel are hatched.

Gariep Dam Wall
Arrange with the Department of Water Affairs for a tour through the dam wall. There are 13 km of passages and halls within the walls of the Gariep Dam. During the yearly water festival, church services and dances are held in the dam wall where up to 400 people are present.

Gariep Nature Reserve
The reserve covers an area of 13 500 ha when the dam is full. Game that you may encounter on the 25 km long tourist roads includes; Black and Blue Wildebeest, Blesbuck, Springbuck, Cape Mountain Zebra, Ostrich, Red Hartebeest, Vaal Rhebuck, Mountain Reedbuck, Duiker and Steenbok

Gariep Power Station
The first hydro-electric power station was built in, Gariep Power Station, by Escom. Tours through the power station can be arranged at 051-7540400.

Norvalspont Concentration Camp
In February 1901, Capt Wynne laid out the Norvalspont concentration camp. The inhabitants received the same rations as in all the other camps established in the period namely: 3/4lb of either mealie meal, rice or potatoes, 1lb of meat twice weekly, 1oz of coffee daily, sugar 2oz daily, and salt ½ oz daily. 366 people died in the camp and the main cause of death was measles.

Shell collection
View this beautiful and outstanding collection of more than 4000 shells at 10 Tinktinkie St.

International gliding championships are held annually in December at the airfield. Overseas gliders agree that Gariep Dam is the mecca for gliding competitions to set up world records for gliding.