The dam is located in the eastern corner of the Northwest Province, just to the south of the regal Magaliesberg mountain range. Hartbeespoort translates to ‘Gateway of the Hartebees’ – a beautiful species of antelope – and this ‘poort’ at the foot of the Magaliesberg was a popular spot for hunters to corner and shoot Hartebees, and so the village and subsequent dam were named after it. Built in the 1920s, the dam was originally intended for irrigation, and although its primary use is still that, ‘Harties’ is now the most popular spot for boating and watersport getaways for the residents of Johannesburg and Pretoria.
The dam wall is 149.5 metres long and 59.4 metres high and is built across a gorge cutting through the Magaliesberg – one of the oldest mountains on earth. The reservoir is fed by the waters of the Crocodile River and Magalies River and covers approximately 18.83 square kilometres, with a mean depth of 9.6 metres and maximum depth of 45.1 metres. The Hartbeespoort area has become a tourism mecca of sorts, mostly thanks to the dam. Boaters, skiers, wakeboarders, windsurfers, jetskiers and other watersports enthusiasts flock to the dam during summer, while fishermen can be seen lining the banks or dropping lines from their boats year-round.
The Transvaal Yacht Club has been operating at the dam since its construction in 1923 and is still very much in full swing, as well as the Hartbeespoort Boat Club for us powerboaters, while the NSRI’s Station 25, located at the dam, is one of only three National Sea Rescue Institute inland stations and provides a water rescue service at the dam. However, despite the water being the biggest attraction, there is a staggering array of other activities to indulge in if you’re more of a landlubber. Quadbiking is another favourite pastime of the area and there are countless trails in the surrounding hill specifically built for this purpose. If you don’t own a four wheeler, fear not, one of the many operators in the area will be able to help you out with a rental and even offer a trail guide if you’re not keen on doing it solo.
Perhaps you enjoy the quiet of nature more than the roar of an engine. No problem, pack your hiking gear and get ready for some spectacular hiking trails with amazing views. There are even a few good rock climbing spots – some of which also include abseiling. The nearby Crocodile River, which feeds into the dam, offers another batch of watersport activities, including canoeing, tubing, cable slides and of course the ever popular and exhilarating white water rafting. One can also opt for an overnight package when canoeing or rafting down the river as there are several riverside camp sites. If you’re not sensitive to heights, there are several means of observing the beautiful Hartbeespoort from a bird’s eye view.