What you did not know about the Drakensberg

The following are a series of little known facts to deal with the challenge of, “What you did not know about the Drakensberg”.

ONE OF ONLY TWENTY ODD WORLD HERITAGE SITES DECLARED ON TWO COUNTS

A large section of the Drakensberg is a World Heritage site on two counts. It is firstly the largest collection of rock art in the world. More than 30,000 examples of the San or Bushman exist in this mountain range. Also, as a result of its unique fauna and flora. The Drakensberg one of just over twenty world heritage sites to receive this status on two counts.

THE DRAKENSBERG HAS THE SECOND HIGHEST WATERFALL

The Thukela Falls which cascade some 948m down the Drakensberg Escarpment are second only to the Angel Falls in Brazil, in terms of length of a drop.

ONE OF THE WORLD’S MOST IMPORTANT EROSIONAL MOUNTAINS

Monks Cowl and Cathkin Peak
Monks Cowl, Cathkin Peak and Sterkhorn.

The Drakensberg is one of the world’s most critical erosional mountains. It was also almost declared a World Heritage Site as a result of this fact. This mountain range is also an escarpment.

A mantle plume under the Southern Gondwana caused bulging of the continental crust, some one hundred and eighty million years ago. This later became South Africa. Rift valleys formed on the sides of this bulge, some twenty million years ago.

A period of erosion followed. This wearing continues to the present day. Additionally, there was a period of upliftment, especially in the East. As a result, most of the plateau lies above 1,000 m despite the extensive erosion. The plateau tilted such that its highest point is in the East, and it slopes gently downwards towards the west and south. The elevation of the edge of the eastern escarpments is typically more than 2,000 m. It reaches its highest point (over 3,000 m)

During the past 20 million years, further massive upliftment has taken place in Southern Africa.

The upliftment of the central plateau over the past 20 million years and erosion of softer sandstone under the volcanic rock resulted in the original escarpment moving inland. This movement created the present-day coastal plain. The position of the present escarpment is approximately 150 kilometres inland from the first fault lines which formed the walls of the rift valley that developed along the coast during the break-up of Gondwana. The rate of the erosion of the escarpment in the Drakensberg region averages 1.5 millimetres per year.

THE DRAKENSBERG PEAKS

Injisuthi
Injisuthi

Many of the peaks in this mountain are over two thousand metres in height. The highest being Thabana Ntlenyana, at 3,482 metres, in Lesotho. Other notable peaks include Mafadi 3,450 metres(highest in South Africa), Makoaneng at 3,416 metres and Injisuthi at 3,408 metres, Furthermore, Champagne Castle at 3,377 metres, Giant’s Castle at 3,315 metres and Popple Peak at 3,331 metres. All of these are in the area bordering on Lesotho.

The Drakensberg borders the mountain Kingdom of Lesotho and three South African provinces namely, parts of the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, and Mpumalanga. It stretches for some 1,000km. KwaZulu-Natal has the most considerable portion of this mountain range.

A SIGNIFICANT SOURCE OF WATER

The Drakensberg is the main watershed of South Africa and the province of KwaZulu-Natal’s most significant source of water. Moreover, most of KwaZulu-Natal’s rivers originate in this escarpment. Additionally, it is the source of the Great Orange River.

The Drakensberg also feeds the Sterkfontein Dam through a unique pump system. This dam provides a large proportion of Gauteng’s water supply.

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