Van Stadens River
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|Van Stadens River|
The Apple Express crossing the Van Stadens River, 6 April 2002
|Eastern Cape, South Africa|
|0 m (0 ft)|
The river was named after Marthinus van Staden, one of the area’s pioneering farmers. He was also among the first to plot a rudimentary track through the valley.
The geology of the Van Stadens catchments is primarily derived from rock of the mid-Palaeozoic Era that formed the Table Mountain Group of the Cape Supergroup. The upper to middle catchment areas are characterised by high gradients indicative of steep gorges. Along the river, nutrient concentrations are naturally low. This is a result of the steep topography that prevents human activity like farming which would disturb the natural processes. The Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve situated upstream and this nature conservancy has kept the level of nutrient input low. The Van Stadens River estuary is 0.52 km2 when the river mouth is closed and the water level is at maximum height.
Van Stadens Bridge
The construction of the Van Stadens Bridge was completed in 11 November 1971. Today the deck arch bridge stands at 140m above the valley floor, contains 1 112m3 of concrete and 574 tons of steel.  It is the second highest railway bridge in South Africa and the highest narrow gauge bridge in the world.
After the 88th fatality, the community called for further measures of prevention. A barrier was built on the bridge in April 2013 to help prevent suicide attempts. In collaboration with the South African National Roads Agency Limited (SANRAL), the Friends of the Van Stadens Bridge Trust spearheaded the construction of the R10-million barrier. For two years, this resulted in a decrease in the bridge’s suicide rate. The first reported suicide off the bridge since the barrier was built occurred in 2016.
Flora and Fauna
The river’s catchment area is lush, making it ideal for many species of plants throughout the year. With two [biomes] adjacent to each other, fynbos and forest, the area is diverse in unique plant and animal life.
The area’s fynbos supports populations of proteas, ericas and orchidaceae. Endemic to the area, aster laevigatus was first discovered in 1902 and then re-discovered after a mountain fire almost a century later. The Van Stadens River gorge is home to the largest population in the world of sterculia alexandri (known as the Cape star chestnut). Adjacent to the N2 national road to Cape Town and 25km west of Port Elizabeth is the Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve. The reserve was established in 1951, making it the oldest in the South Africa to provide a sanctuary for indigenous flora and fauna.
- List of rivers of South Africa
- Van Stadens Bridge
- Van Stadensriviermond
- List of longest arch bridge spans
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