Van Stadens River

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Van Stadens River
SAR Class 91-000 91-018 Van Stadens.jpg
The Apple Express crossing the Van Stadens River, 6 April 2002
Van Stadens River is located in South Africa
Van Stadens River
Country South Africa
ProvinceEastern Cape
Physical characteristics
MouthIndian Ocean
 • location
Eastern Cape, South Africa
 • coordinates
33°58′S 25°13′E / 33.967°S 25.217°E / -33.967; 25.217Coordinates: 33°58′S 25°13′E / 33.967°S 25.217°E / -33.967; 25.217
 • elevation
0 m (0 ft)

Van Stadens River is a river in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa. The river mouth is located about 30 km west of Port Elizabeth.

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.[1]

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.[2] 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.[2]

The Van Stadens Bridge where the N2 national highway crosses the river is known as a suicide location.

Just upstream of the N2 bridge, the 60 cm (2 ft) gauge Avontuur Railway crosses the Van Stadens River over a 78 m (255 ft) high bridge.[3]

Van Stadens Bridge[edit]

Van Stadens Bridge

The construction of the Van Stadens Road Bridge was completed in 11 November 1971.[4] Today the deck arch bridge stands at 140m above the valley floor,[5] contains 1 112m3 of concrete and 574 tons of steel.

[6] It is the second highest railway bridge in South Africa and the highest narrow gauge bridge in the world.[6]

As more people plunged to their death so the road bridge became a notorious spot, it was dubbed a suicide bridge.[7]

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.[8] 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.[7] 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.[7]

Flora and Fauna[edit]

Smith's dwarf chameleon

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.[9]

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).[9] Adjacent to the N2 national road to Cape Town and 25 km 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.[9]

Van Stadens River catchment area is also home to the endangered Smith's dwarf chameleon and Hewitt's ghost frog.[9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Van Stadens Pass (R102). Mountain Passes South Africa. Accessed 24 July 2017.
  2. ^ a b Gama, PT, Adams, JB, Schael, DM and Skinner T. 2005. Phytoplankton Chlorophyll: A concentration and community structure of two temporarily open/closed estuaries. Department of Botany, Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. Accessed 26 July 2017.
  3. ^ Sellick, W.S.J (1904). Uitenhage, past and present : souvenir of the Centenary, 1804-1904. W.S.J. Sellick. p. 195.
  4. ^ Basson, M. 2012. DA calling for safety measures. Kouga Express
  5. ^ Van Stadens Bridge. Structurae. Accessed 24 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b "The PE-Avontuur Narrow Gauge Line– A brief history. SA Rail Vol. 45 No. 2. Accessed 24 July 2017" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2011. Retrieved 25 July 2017.
  7. ^ a b c No bridge deaths since barrier erected. The Herald Live. Accessed 24 July 2017.
  8. ^ Man dies at Van Stadens bridge. The Herald Live. Accessed 24 July 2017.
  9. ^ a b c d Van Stadens Wild Flower Reserve. Port Elizabeth Metro Bed and Breakfast Association (PEMBBA). Accessed 24 July 2013.