Call for help from local authorities to unblock bridge for paddlers

Huge tree trunk blocks bridge in Vaal River

A huge tree trunk is blocking the bridge on the Vaal River towards Daleside, Henley on Klip, and Meyerton, which makes it impossible for paddlers to use the river safely.

Despite a number of attempts by the Gauteng Canoe Union (GCU) to bring the tree-blocked bridge to the attention of local authorities, as the heavy rainfall flooding through the area at this time of year puts immense strain on the infrastructure of the bridge blocked on a bend in the river, it is without avail.

While the bridge infrastructure is deteriorating, the danger also applies to canoeists on this river from as high upriver as the Lido hotel, through Daleside, Henley on Klip, Meyerton and towards the Vaal River near Three Rivers.

This river is the only one with rapids, albeit mostly manmade and water flow all-year round in Gauteng, for canoeists to train for major internationally recognised river races such as the Dusi.

The tree blocking the Klip River bridge, after Henley on Klip towards Meyerton on the R551 near Saloojees.

It is also the only one with easy access to most areas to enable new learner paddlers to gain the necessary skills and river safety skills in order to participate in river races.

Apart from this river, the only other navigable river with rapids is the Jukskei that joins the Crocodile River towards Hartebeespoortdam, but it has been badly polluted by overflowing municipal sewerage water works, and is only navigable for a few days after heavy rainstorms.

It drains very fast and after heavy rainfall can also spike and flow extremely fast and is potentially dangerous. Apart from this river, there is the Parys section of the Vaal, a much longer drive for Gauteng-based canoeists.

Since it appeared that there would be no assistance for clearing the bridge, the GCU paddlers took it upon themselves to chop up the trunks of the trees to open a water flow on both left and right sides of the bridge.

This allows water to pass without putting too much strain on the bridge, while the canoeists themselves would also be able to pass under the bridge safely without the risk of being trapped in the trees. Tree clearing has been managed by the paddlers for at last 15 to 20 years to some extent to ensure safety.

However, there are numerous broken and damaged bridges along the section where canoeists were unable to find access to huge cranes or heavy equipment in order to remove some of the massive trees with roots that are washed out along the banks, and which fall into the river, causing danger to all traffic.

The tree blocking the Klip River bridge, after Henley on Klip towards Meyerton on the R551 near Saloojees. There will be a two-day river race along this section at the end of January 2021 in preparation for the Dusi in February 2021.

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