The Canal

HISTORY OF THE ELSIESKRAAL RIVER

The source of the Elsieskraal stream is on the Northeast facing slopes of the Tygerberg behind De Grendel farm; it gathers volume as it fills and leaves the farm dams on Maastricht, Bloemendal en Altydgedacht – three picturesque farms dating from the late 17th and early 18th centuries. Altydgedacht is a fairly new name; its original name is De Tijgerbergen, which appears on the deed of grant in freehold to the widow Elsje van Surwaerden, dated 7 July 1698.  It is very likely that the river carries Elsje’s name. Elsje was the daughter of Heinrich van Surwaerden and Margaretha Meekhof. She was born at the Cape on 8 May 1662, married Albert van Breughel in 1680 and after his death married Secunde Andries de Man in 1669. Government officials, with the exception of Commander van der Stel, were not permitted to farm, but this rule did not apply to their wives.

The nomadic aboriginal Koina grazed their cattle in these valleys and used the river in precolonial times, but lost the use of them when the land was partitioned and granted to colonists.

For the sake of its own cattle breeding programme, the Dutch East India Company established an outstation on the banks of the river in 1688, in the vicinity of the present Danie Uys Park in Bellville. The outstation was called Elsjescorael, and the river that flowed past the outstation was for the first time called Elsjescoraelrivier.

After leaving Altydgedacht the river dips under Jip de Jager Avenue in Doodekraal, flows through Protea Vallei and then turns to the South. It goes under the N1 highway, passes the sports field of DF Malan High School in Boston, under Tinnie Meyer road (M11) in Parow East, past the Transet marshalling yard and the Tygerberg Hospital. It gives its name to the suburb of Riverton and flows past Ruiterwacht and the Grand West Casino, that occasionally organises a clean-up of the river by schools in the area. It flows past Thornton Station, the Jewish Cemetery and then dips under Jan Smuts Drive (M16) to enter Pinelands Garden City, where the river banks are a proclaimed Green Zone for the recreation of all visitors.

The river flows between the Clyde Pinelands sports fields and the King David Mowbray Golf Club. It goes into a tunnel under Settlers Way (N2) and ends its existence when it joins the Black River, which itself is a combination of the Black, Kromboom, Vygekraal, Blomvlei streams and tributaries near Bokmakierie and Hazendal station.

When 65% of the Elsieskraal river was canalised in  the early 1970’s prevent flooding, most of the bird and animal life disappeared from its banks. The canal causes the river to increase speed and there have been several drownings in past winter floods.

Renewing the Elsieskraal river

There is a concerned group of Pinelands residents who have recently started campaigning to renew the Elsieskraal River. Search for them on Facebook as “Renew the Elsieskraal River” (or, click here: https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=renew%20the%20elsieskraal%20river) to find out more. You can join their efforts if you wish to help bring life back to the Elsieskraal and to keep it clean and safe.

SOURCES:

  1. Sleigh: Die Buiteposte, Pretoria, 1993.
  2. Walters and J.Parker: The Children of Altydgedacht, Durbanville, 2013.

Map Studio, Street Guide: Cape Town including Western Cape towns. 15th edition. Cape Town, no date.

General Water Safety:

Always respect water – never go near the canal’s edges when the water level is high, nor allow your pets to venture into the water. Never throw litter, building material, tree branches or garden greenery into the canal. Take these to the Athlone Station dump site – open Monday to Friday during office hours and on Saturday mornings.

If you see a person or an animal in danger and in need of assistance, or anyone dumping illegally, call the Police (021 506 2022) or Pinelands Neighbourhood Watch (Delta Van 082 411 2484) immediately.