The Pongola River rises at some 2 200m above mean sea level near Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga, and descends steeply through the major portion of its catchment to the west of the Lebombo mountains.
The Pongola passes between the Lebombo and Ubombo ranges through a narrow gorge (known as Pongolapoort)and the lower reaches of the river lie on the Maputaland coastal plain east of the mountains in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
This article was published in "The Water Wheel" magazine, a publication of WRC, written by Lani van Vuuren.
This article have been reproduced and used on this website with permission from Lani van Vuuren.
The necessity of the Pongolapoort Dam, one of the largest dams in South Africa, has been debated for decades after its construction. Lani van Vuuren takes a look at the development of this dam.
Here, the river has a slope of 1 in 3 000; the abrupt change in gradient stems the flowrate of the river on the plain, causing a deposition of part of the sediment load and the flooding of extensive areas adjacent to the river course. This broad alluvial plain, known as the Pongola floodplain, extends from the gorge to the confluence of the Pongola and the Usutu rivers, close to the border with Mozambique.