Orange River Facts

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa, flowing 2,100 kilometers from its source to its estuary. It supports a wide range of water-dependent activities, including agriculture and recreation.

The Orange River also serves as an important trade route, with many cities built along its banks and a variety of ferries and barges carrying goods between ports.

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Orange River Facts for Kids

  • The Orange River is in southern Africa.
  • It is the longest river in South Africa.
  • It flows into the Atlantic Ocean.
  • It forms part of the border between South Africa and Namibia.
  • The river is used for irrigation and hydroelectric power.
  • The Orange River is home to many fish species.

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa. It runs for over 2,100 kilometers (1,367 miles). Its main tributaries are the Vaal River, Riet River, and Caledon River. It collects other smaller tributaries too.

It’s known for its fast flow rate and high discharge volume. During heavy rain, it can reach up to 2,200 cubic meters per second. On average, it’s about two meters (7 feet) deep and two kilometers (1.2 miles) wide during floods. The terrain varies from steep mountains and gorges to wide floodplains and sandy deserts.

The Orange has long been an important part of southern Africa’s history and development. Indigenous people used it as a trade route, while early European settlers relied on its resources. Today, it remains an economic and environmental resource—providing irrigation water and hydroelectric power in South Africa, among other things.

Economic and Environmental Importance

The Orange River is essential for the South African, Namibian, and Southern Angolan regions. It provides irrigation for crops like grapes, citrus fruits, and cotton, which are important for the local economy and provide sustenance to many.

It also supports livestock farming which generates income for those living along its course.

It’s a major source of hydroelectric power, too, thanks to several power stations, like Vanderkloof Dam and Gariep Dam, harnessing energy from its flow. This reduces dependency on fossil fuels, shrinking the carbon footprint in the area.

The river also plays home to various species of fish – yellowfish, catfish, or tilapia– as well as a habitat for water birds, reptiles, and other animals, making eco-tourism possible. Fishing provides food plus an income source for locals.

In short, the Orange River helps give life to the region in many ways – economically and environmentally.

Historical Significance

The Orange River has a long and significant role in the history of southern Africa. The Khoikhoi and San people have used it as an important trade route for centuries, exchanging goods such as cattle and salt.

During the colonial period, Europeans also capitalized on its role as a transportation route and developed farms, settlements, and diamond-gold mining industries along its banks.

Nowadays, the Orange River is used as a political and economic boundary between South Africa and Namibia, at the same time as being an important area for biodiversity conservation.

It is also a vital habitat for animals and plants, which helps to sustain life in this area. Additionally, due to its sheltered location within many communities along its banks, it has been an ideal basis for spreading knowledge, information, and culture between them over time. For example, fishing in these waters has helped source an abundant food source for the indigenous peoples living in the vicinity.

Today, despite still having both ecological and economic importance, the Orange River continues to support life in many different ways.

Its capabilities are far-reaching when it comes to supplying fresh water downstream for both drinking purposes but also sustenance for wildlife upstream.

Furthermore, it has become an increasingly sought-after resource when it comes to tourism, with popular leisure activities such as paddling or bird watching becoming ever more popular along its lengthy course stretching from foreign lands into our own backyards.


The Orange River, known to many as the Gariep, is a river in South Africa. This iconic body of water holds historical and cultural significance to the Khoi people. Its name—Gariep—means “river,” an apt description of this powerful river system.

In 1779, Robert Jacob Gordon was the first European to explore the Orange/Gariep River, naming it after the Dutch royal house at that time, also known as “The House of Orange.” Additionally, Europeans dubbed it ‘Grootrivier,’ which translates to “great river.”

The Orange River makes up part of a network of rivers running through South Africa and into Namibia. It’s considered the longest inland river on the African continent, with an impressive 2132 kilometers (1322 miles) long.

Along its course, scenic spots such as Augrabies Falls, Fish River Canyon, and other features make this body of water truly remarkable – not surprisingly, being so long!

Named both for its history as well as its sheer beauty, you’ll find both ‘Orange’ and ‘Gariep’ thrown around regularly when referring to this incredible natural feature found deep in Africa’s heartland.

Important Facts and Overview

The Orange River is the longest river in South Africa. It flows from Lesotho to the Indian Ocean and has a length of 2,200 km. The river has many tributaries across its course, with five major dams along its banks that are used for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation.

Aliwal North is a major city located near the Sandile Dam, which is found near the Orange River. This dam was completed in 1972 and served as a means of powering electricity for surrounding areas.

The Senqu River forms part of the southwestern border between South Africa and Lesotho, in addition to the Orange River. Parts of this section are known as Caledon–Senqu River Basin.

The Orange River bed can also be weathered through evaporation by intense ultraviolet light, especially during dry seasons when there is little surface water flow. This can cause erosion along the edges of its banks over time, leading to reduced fertility along areas where crops are grown.

Diamond mines were commonly found along parts of the Orange River back during the 1910s around Aliwal North’s vicinity due to increased sediment loads in this area at that time leading to diamond deposits being distributed more widely than usual on other spots along its course further downstream towards