The Blyde River Canyon is a significant natural feature of South Africa, located in Mpumalanga, and forming the northern part of the Drakensberg escarpment. It is 16 miles (26 km) in length and is, on average, around 2,500 feet (762 m) deep. The Dam itself, when full, is at an altitude of 665m (2182 feet). The Canyon consists mostly of red sandstone. The highest point of the canyon, Mariepskop, is 6,378 feet (1,944 m) feet above sea level, whilst its lowest point where the river leaves the canyon is slightly less than 1,840 feet (561 m) above sea level. This means that by some measure the Canyon is over 4,500 feet (1,372 m) deep.
While it is difficult to compare canyons World-wide, Blyde River Canyon is one of the largest canyons on Earth, and it may be the largest 'green canyon' due to its lush subtropical foliage. It has some of the deepest precipitious cliffs of any canyon on the planet. It is the second largest canyon in Africa, after the Fish River Canyon, and is known as one of the great wonders of nature on the continent.
Possibly the best view in the whole of the Blyde River Canyon is of the "Three Rondavels", huge, round rocks, thought to be reminiscent of the houses or huts of the indigenous people, known as rondavels. This canyon is part of the Panorama route. This route starts at the town Graskop and includes God's Window, the Pinnacle and Bourke's Luck Potholes.
Fauna and Flora:
The Blyde River canyon supports large diversity of life, including numerous fish and antelope species as well as Hippos and Crocodiles, and every primate species that may be seen in South Africa. The diversity of birdlife is similarly high, including the beautiful and much sought Narina Trogon as well as species such as the Cape Vulture, Black Eagle, Crowned Eagle, African Fish Eagle, Gymnogene, Jackal Buzzard, Whitebacked Vulture, Bald Ibis, African Finfoot, Knysna Lourie, Purple-crested Lourie, Gurney's Sugarbird, Malachite Sunbird, Cinnamon Dove, Emerald Cuckoo, Red-backed Mannikin, Golden-tailed Woodpecker, Olive Bush Shrike, Green Twinspot, Taita Falcons, Cape Eagle Owl, White-faced Owl, Wood Owl, Peregrine Falcon, Black-breasted Snake Eagle, Wahlberg's Eagle, Long-crested Eagle, Jackal Buzzard, Lanner Falcon, Red-breasted Sparrowhawk, Rock Kestrel and others.
At 200 metres (660 ft), the Kadishi Tufa waterfall is the second tallest tufa waterfall on earth. A tufa waterfall is formed when water running over dolomite rock absorbs calcium, and deposits rock formations more rapidly than they erode the surrounding rock. In the case of the Kadishi Tufa fall, the formation that has been produced strikingly resembles a face which is crying profusely, and is thus sometimes known as 'the weeping face of nature'.
The Canyon and the surrounding Drakensberg escarpment is a very popular tourist region with a well-developed tourism industry supported by good public infrastructure.