The History of the Drakensberg Mountains
How lucky are we that South Africa’s main mountain range is practically on our doorsteps! Just a two hour drive from Durban and a 3.5 to 4 hour drive from Johannesburg. Covering a distance of 1,125km and reaching heights of 3,475m, this magnificent mountain range is definitely something South Africans have to boast about! In the year 2000, the Drakensberg Mountains were declared a World Heritage Site, giving us even more reason to be proud!
Drakensberg Mountains Facts:
- Source of the great Orange River
- Separates Mpumalanga and the Free State
- Main watershed of South Africa
The “Drakensberg” – derived from the Afrikaans name, “Drakensberg” meaning “Dragon Mountains” is the name given to the Eastern Portion of the Great Escarpment. These mountains (mainly in the Lesotho regions) are capped with snow during the winter months and make the perfect challenge for those interested in trail running or mountain biking too.
Approximately 180 million years ago, a mantle plume under the Southern Gondwana caused bulging of the continental crust – this later became South Africa. 20 million years passed before rift valleys formed on either side of this bulge – the steep valleys’ that formed here shaped escarpments. Most South Africans speak of the Drakensberg when they are in fact referring to the Great Escarpment (this forms the border between Lesotho and KZN).
The Drakensberg Mountains (Limpopo, Mpumalanga and Lesotho) have a rough appearance due to erosion and resistant upper surfaces. The KwaZulu-Natal – Free State Drakensberg comprise of softer rocks and therefore have a softer appearance.
Perhaps the biggest historic treasure of these magnificent Drakensberg Mountains is the rich rock art/ rock paintings…keep a look out for our next blog on these South African treasures.