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The Gariep Dam was originally called the Hendrik Verwoerd Dam after the first Prime Minister of the Republic of South Africa Hendrik Frensch Verwoerd on its commission in 1971.

However after the end of apartheid the name was considered unsuitable, and the name was officially changed to Gariep Dam on 4 October 1996. Gariep is San for “Great water”, and is the original name of the Orange River. The dam is located on the Orange River between the Eastern Cape to the south and the Free State to the north and about 30 km north east of Colesberg. It is situated in a gorge at the entrance to the Ruigte Valley some 5 km east of Norvalspont.

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The dam itself is a concrete gravity-arch hybrid dam. This design was chosen as the gorge is too wide for a complete arch so flanking walls form gravity abutments to the central arch. It is 88 m high and has a crest length of 914 m and contains approximately 1.73 million m³ of concrete. The Gariep Dam is the largest storage reservoir in South Africa with a total storage of approximately 5,500 million m³ and a surface area of more than 370 km² when full. It has four 90 MW generators, giving a maximum output of 360 MW of electricity at a water flow rate of 800 m³/s. The dam was built by Dumez, the French construction company. Oviston, on the south bank of the reservoir, is the inlet of the Orange-Fish River Tunnel, allowing water to be diverted to the Great Fish River and the Eastern Cape.

Surrounded by koppies and flanked by the towering flat-topped mountain known as Coleskop, which can be seen from 40km away, Colesberg is one of the Northern Cape’s most beautiful towns. When the sun slips to the horizon, brushing the skies with brilliant hues, Coleskop’s former name, Towerberg (meaning Magic Mountain) seems more appropriate. In earlier times there was a marsh at the foot of the mountain, frequented by large herds of game and also where travelers watered their animals.

In 1914,a mission station was built at the foot of Coleskop in the hope of bringing peace to the volatile frontier area of the Cape Colony.A second mission station, Hepzibah, was built a few kilometers away and the two soon attracted 1 700 Khoisan people to the area. Alarmed frontier settlers felt their security to be under threat and, in 1818,the Cape government intervened, putting an end to missionary work. In 1828,the farmers petitioned for a farm to be established and permission was granted by Cape Governor, Lord Charles Somerset.

As a result, 18 138 morgen were given to the community by the government for administration by the local Dutch Reformed church. The first “erven” were sold on 27th January 1830 and the town was officially named Colesberg after Sir Lowry Cole, the then governor of the Cape. The Transvaal Republic’s president, Paul Kruger, born in Cradock in 1825,is believed to have spent his formative years on the farm, Vaalbank, falling in what was, by 1830, the town of Colesberg Today, Colesberg is a traveler’s oasis on the N1 highway between Cape Town and Johannesburg, offering many attractive accommodation establishments and educational and entertaining distractions.

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It is an important sheep-farming area, spread over half-a-million hectares and greater Colesberg breeds many of the country’s top Merinos.It is also renowned for producing high-quality race horses and many stud farms, including the one owned by legendary golfer, Gary Player, are nearby. Back

Approximately 30% of the park is covered in fynbos (Cape Floral Kingdom), scattered amongst the forest vegetation, boasting a wide variety of beautiful flowers, including proteas and heath. Many species of forest, fynbos and sea birds are present.

The Great Karoo has an area of more than 400,000 square kilometre. From a geological point of view it has been a vast inland basin for most of the past 250 million years. At one stage the area was glaciated and the evidence for this is found in the widely-distributed Dwyka titillate.

Later, at various times, there were great inland deltas, seas, lakes or swamps. Enormous deposits of coal formed and these are one of the pillars of the economy of South Africa today. Volcanic activity took place on a titanic scale. Despite this baptism of fire, ancient reptiles and amphibians prospered in the wet forests and their remains have made the Karoo famous amongst palaeontologists. Western people first settled in the Cape in 1652 but made almost no inroads into the Karoo prior to about 1800.

During the Second Anglo-Boer War of 1899-1902, three Republican Commandos, reinforced by the rebels from the Cape Colony, conducted widespread operations throughout the Karoo. Countless skirmishes took place in the region, with the Calvinia magisterial district, in particular, contributing a significant number of fighters to the Republican cause.

Fought both conventionally and as a guerilla struggle over the Karoo’s vast expanses, it was a bloody war of attrition wherein both sides used newly developed technologies to their advantage. Numerous abandoned blockhouses can still be seen at strategic locations throughout the Great Karoo; a prime example is located next to the Geelbeks River, 12 kilometres outside the town of Laingsburg. Currently sheep farming is still the economic backbone of the Karoo, with other forms of agriculture established in areas where irrigation is possible. Lately game farms and tourism have also started to make an economic impact.