10 Longest Rivers In South Africa (2023)

There are several beautiful rivers in South Africa of different lengths, scattered across different parts of the country. These rivers are crucial in various ways, as they have certain unique contributions to the benefit of the society. For instance, many industries and farms keeps utilizing the water from the rivers for industrial and irrigation purposes.

The top 10 longest rivers in South Africa includes: Orange (1,367 miles), Limpopo (1,087 miles), Vaal (696 miles), Molopo (597 miles), Nossob (460 miles), Great Fish (430 miles), Gamtoos (401 miles), Olifants (348 miles), Great Kei (323 miles), and Tugela (312 miles)

Top 10 Longest Rivers In South Africa

1. Orange River

The longest river in South Africa is the Orange River. The river emanates from a part of Lesotho that is known as Drakensberg, and gets into the Atlantic Ocean via South Africa. The Orange River is 1,365 miles, making it not just the longest in South Africa, but also one of the most significant of its kind in the continent.

The River was named in honor of William V of Orange back then in 1779 by Robert Gordon, although it used to be called Groote Rivier and river Gariep by its earliest inhabitants. Right now however, the Orange River is not just part of the international boundary line between South Africa and neighboring Namibia and Lesotho, but it also supports agriculture, mining, as well as industry.

2. Limpopo River

The second longest river in South Africa is the Limpopo River. Interestingly, this river is not just famous for its length, but it is also one of the most prominent of its kind in the whole of Africa. And for the record, the Limpopo River is around 1,087 miles long.

The Limpopo River has several important and crucial functions, benefits and uses. The river not only acts as a borderline that separates South Africa with the likes of Zimbabwe and Botswana, but it also offer support to over 13 million people residing in its basin. There are hundreds of mines located in the Limpopo Basin, supporting economic activities. However, the river also has produced flooding that had devastating effects on lives and properties.

3. The Vaal River

“Vaal” is a Dutch word that can mean “dull”. It was purposefully given the name by the Dutch since it takes tons of silt while the flooding season is on. Nevertheless, 696-mile long river is the third longest river in South Africa, while also being a tributary of the Orange River.

The river also excel in purposes and significance. It is greatly beneficial to folks in the Free State and the Greater Johannesburg Metropolitan Area. It provides good supply of water particularly for industrial use.

4. Molopo

The Molopo River is not only one of the longest rivers in South Africa, but also one of the country’s major rivers. The river has a length that is around 597 miles, and is found also in Namibia and Botswana (it, in fact, forms a prominent section of the border between South Africa and Botswana).

There are certain attributes that has made the Molopo River quite unique from several others in the country. Here, river flow is intermittent, and due to its features, floods are rare. We should also note that the river’s prominent tributary is the Nossob. Other tributaries attached to the Molopo River includes: Kuruman River, Phepane River, Ramatlabama River, Madebe River, Modimola River, and Setlagoli River.

5. Nossob River

The Nossob is the fifth longest of its kind in South Africa, but it is also present in Namibia and Botswana too. While the 460-mile long river may not be as eminent as certain others here, it sure is a calm river (last flooded in 1989).

The river has its origin in two main tributaries, and it flow about only once in a century in the Kalahari. Nevertheless, large thunderstorms can cause a brief stir, causing the river to flow briefly. But then, the river offers adequate support for grass and camelthorn trees growing in its bed.

6. Great Fish

The Great Fish River is another prominent river in South Africa, running through the province of the Eastern Cape. The 430-mile long river used to be known as Rio do Infante before the name was given what it is currently known as. Interestingly, the Great Fish River has water all year round, and is thus generally permanent.

Also, we should add that the river’s prominent tributaries are the Groot Brak River, the Tarka River, the Kap River, as well as the Little Fish River.

7. Gamtoos

Gamtoos River (also known as Gamptoos River), is another prominent one in the country. Stretching some 401 miles, the river is formed by the confluence of the Kouga River as well as the Groot River. Also, the river supports agriculture in surrounding regions, and the locals could benefit from the water it supplies to cultivate the likes of vegetables, oranges, and so on.

So many years ago, the River reportedly completely dried up due to a severe drought, despite that it has once rose by up to 21 m in a period of floods. We should also add that other prominent tributaries attached to the River are the Loerie River, Klein River, and the Hol River.

8. Olifants

The Olifants River is another major one in South Africa, though it also flows through the country of Mozambique. The 348-mile long river, which is also a tributary of the Limpopo River, has its origin between Breyten and Bethal, Mpumalanga Province. Due to its structure, after receiving heavy rains, the river carries away eroded soil.

One of the things we can’t but point out about this river is that it has been vehemently polluted by green algae. In fact, it has a reputation for being one of the most polluted of its kind in the country. Also, it was discovered that nutrient levels in the river are fairly low.

9. Great Kei

The Great Kei River is on this list because it comes right after the Olifants River – 323 miles. It emanates from the Eastern Cape province, formed by the confluence of the Black Kei River and White Kei River. The river is also beneficial in its own ways.

10. Tugela River

The river is amongst the top ten longest rivers in the country, while it is reputable for being the largest of its kind in KwaZulu-Natal Province. It has several tributaries, such as the Mzinyathi River, Klip River, Mooi River, Blood River (which was given that name by the Boers after the bloody war with the Zulu in 1838), Sundays River, and so on. Stretching some 312 miles, the Tugela River is pretty significant in South Africa.

Conclusion

These longest rivers in South Africa have been serving crucial purposes in the country, and are of great benefits in different ways. They represent a pivotal part of South Africa’s ecosystem, and are integral to the supply of water for irrigation and industrial processes. Therefore, so many farms and industries depend vehemently on them.

Finally, these prominent rivers in South Africa don’t only enhance transportation and human movements, but are also vehemently rich sources of nutrients for a lot of the farms along the river banks.