Underberg - While the big field of paddlers tackles the popular two-day Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon on January 23-24, they will be supporting a
ramped up campaign with the race backers to try and rid the Mzimkulu Valley of
alien invader plant species, and, in particular, the water-intensive Black
Every paddler that enters the Drak makes a contribution towards the Wattle
Clearing Fund run by the organisers from the Canyon Canoe Club, which has waged
a seven year war against the infestation of Black Wattle trees along the
sections of the Mzimkulu Valley used for the race.
Every year the club has used the cash accumulated to tackle specific sections
of the Black Wattle infestation, gradually eliminating the trees from the
sections of the Mzimkulu River. To date over R350 000 collected from Drak
paddlers has been spent on Black Wattle eradication.
The race sponsors N3 Toll Concessions have responded to the paddlers personal
donations to the fight against the Black Wattle by adding a substantial
contribution to the fund that will dramatically escalate the scale of the Black
Wattle clearing operation.
Wattle (Acacia Mearnsii) is an alien invader that has a mean reputation for the
impact it has on the water table. It can consume as much as 800 litres of water
per tree per day, and they account for a massive 7% of the total rainfall
runoff in South Africa annually.
its inception in 1994 paddlers on the first stage have noted the spreading of
the Black Wattle infestation upstream of Black Murray rapid, to the point that
the dense forest of Wattle in the Valley of a Thousand Rapids has been named
the “Black Forest”.
full river the uMzimkhulu spills into these forests, creating a new danger for
the paddlers to deal with. The biggest danger however comes from Black Wattle
trees falling into the river, either during the dry winter months or in heavy
trees block the river and create a deadly strainer that can pin a paddler
against the trunk or branches, with potentially lethal consequences.
the Canyon Kayak Club, that runs the Drak Challenge, recognised that
something drastic had to be done, to safeguard the thousands of paddlers that
use the river year round, and contribute to the farming community’s drive to
rid the farmlands of these alien invaders that sponge off the fragile water
year the club asked participants of the Drak Challenge to make a voluntary
donation with their race entry to contribute towards a fund that the club had
set up to start confronting the Black Wattle problem head-on.
response was overwhelming, and in autumn 2009 the club had the resources to
start eradicating Wattle from the banks of the Mzimkulu. They started with the
Underberg Gorge starting close to the town of Underberg and ending close to the
local contractors hired to do the job worked through the Gorge, the impact was
striking. Rapids like Tokolosh and Big Dipper opened up, and inside the year
the natural vegetation started to return to the river banks.
the Underberg Gorge was completed, the attention shifted to the Valley of a
Thousand Rapids, higher up the Mzimkhulu, starting at Wild Dog Estate around
the Black Murray rapid and gradually working upstream into the “Black Forest”.
It is a
slow and costly exercise to fell the trees with chainsaws and ensure that all
the branches and debris is removed from the valley, and to ensure that there is
no regrowth of the Black Wattle.
year paddlers taking part in the race chip in voluntary donations to the Wattle
Clearing Fund, and a percentage of the race proceeds each year are added to
fund the rolling Black Wattle eradication project.
the alliance between the N3 Toll Concession and the Drak Challenge deepened to
the status of full title sponsors in 2013, N3TC has wholeheartedly endorsed the
Black Wattle clearing programme, and this year they have stepped up their
involvement from a Corporate Social Responsibility investment perspective to
add further muscle to the wattle battle being waged in the Valley of a Thousand
The Drak Challenge takes place on Saturday 23 and Sunday, January 24, 2016.
information can be found at www.drak.co.za