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Calitzdorp municipality had its own Coat-of-Arms which was registered to it in perpetuity. Calitzdorp Municipality no longer exists but legally no one else may use the Arms.
When electricity was installed in Calitzdorp in 1937, it was the smallest electricity supply setup in the country, the least costly installation and Calitzdorp’s supply price was the cheapest per unit in South Africa.
When built between 1943 -1954, the concrete road from Calitzdorp to Oudtshoorn - known locally as the \'sementpad\' - was the longest concrete road in South Africa. It was NOT the country\'s first concrete road, as is frequently claimed.
The last ever steam train on the Oudtshoorn-Calitzdorp line was a special Union Line day trip for steam train enthusiasts on 13 August 1997, four years after the official closing of the line. The loco was a class 19D No 2753
The Little Karoo was once an inland sea of approximately 14,500 square kilometers. It would have been a quarter the size of Lake Victoria, half the size of lake Malawi, 24 times the size of the Dead Sea and 87 times the size of the Sea of Galilee!
Huge Fossil bones found in the Calitzdorp district were thought by Hoffman in 1966 to possibly be those of the Giant Plesiosaur – the same as Scotland’s Loch Ness Monster, ‘Nessie’. However they were later identified as those of the sauropod Algoasaurus related to the Brontosaurus.
In the 1800s and early 1900s there was a thriving Jewish community in the Little Karoo. Many of their shops had no doors for customers - who climbed in through the windows!
Calitzdorp has South Africa’s largest Pale Chanting Goshawk bird population – the only polyandrous raptor in South Africa.
The Calitzdorp Nel’s river dam was the first mass-concrete agricultural irrigation dam wall built in the country.
The dam was built in 1913-1918, before modern equipment was available, and work was done with picks and shovels. Donkeys and mules did the hauling. There was one 36 BHP suction gas engine which ran all the major plant.
The Nel’s river which flows through Groenfontein valley and fills Calitzdorp dam was previously known as the Kango river and is shown as such on the original subdivision map of the Buffelsvlei farm, dated April 1834.
The word Kango comes from the Khoisan language – The Khoisan called the Swartberg mountains the Kango and the word means ‘place rich in water’.
A Surveyor General’s Map dated 25 Jan 1847 shows that Daniel Nel owned large sections of the Kango river / valley farmland, Probably why the river became known as ‘Nel’s river’.
Cape leopards still roam freely in the mountains around Calitzdorp. Extremely shy, and ranging over enormous territories, these rare, beautiful animals are seldom seen.
Calitzdorp sits on a geological fault line that runs for 300 kilometers along the southern edge of the Cape Fold mountains – proof being our local hot spring at the Calitzdorp Spa.
In the 1850s the town of George was a 50 hour trek by ox-wagon from Calitzdorp! This time did not include overnight stops and time for the oxen to rest and graze.
After their discovery, the Cango caves were known as \'die Druipkelder’. and only became known as Cango Caves many years later.
When Electricity was first provided in Bergsig, each of the smaller houses had one connection to a street light, and electricity was only available at night when the street lights were switched on.
Lucerne – a major fodder crop around Calitzdorp, came to South Africa from South America in 1861. Its introduction into the Little Karoo dramatically changed the ostrich industry
There are 34 internationally recognised biodiversity Hotspots in the entire world - and Calitzdorp is surrounded by four.
The plant biomes – areas of a certain type of plant growth - are identified as World Hot Spots because of the unique - and threatened vegetation, found nowhere else in the world.
Each of the four World Hot Spots around Calitzdorp –fynbos, thicket, remnant forest and succulent Karoo – has at least 1500 endemic plant species – each Hot Spot biome having more plant variety than the whole of Europe
Calitzdorp’s first cemetery is said to have been in the area of “The Queen of Calitzdorp” Lodge - but maybe this old cemetery was under the \'spookhuis\' - giving reason for its name? Long demolished, the police station now stands where the \'spookhuis\' once was.
During the world-wide ‘flu epidemic of 1918, Calitzdorp was not spared and the beautiful double-storey home at 1 Queen street was used as a make-shift hospital for the duration of the epidemic
More than eleven thousand hand-cut stones were used to build the Dutch Reformed Church. The raw stone was transported by ox-wagon from Swartkop at Vlei Rivier and dressed on the building site.
Because of its enormous size, the Dutch Reformed Church vestry table (5,2m) had to be made on site.
On 22 February 1991 the imposing sandstone Dutch Reformed Church and its surrounding fence was declared a National monument - now known as a Provincial Heritage Site.
The cast-iron fencing, erected around the perimeter of the Dutch Reformed Church grounds in 1899, is eleven years older than the church itself.
The five massive Dutch Reformed Church bells - three huge and two slightly smaller ones, cost £425 and were cast in Germany. They were donated by J J Grundling and his wife in memory of their grandson Jacobus Johannes Grundling Meyer
The magnificent Dutch Reformed Church organ - considered the best in the country at the time and said to have then had 942 pipes, was imported from Hamburg, Germany.
The Huisrivier Pass underwent major upgrading in 2012 and 2013. To the astonishment of workers at a stop/go point on the construction site, a leopard crossed the road right in front of them - in broad daylight!
The very rare, unusual, yellow Protea - Mimetes chrysanthus – was discovered in the Gamkaberg Nature Reserve by game guard Mr Willie Julies in September 1987.
Calitzdorp is on Route 62 – the longest wine route in the world.
Voortrekker road – or Route 62 – was firstly known as Bloekomlaan (Bluegum avenue) due to the number of gum trees which lined the road.
A number of original little houses were demolished on Voortrekker Road and the bluegum street-trees were removed to widen the road when Route 62 was built.
The house which reputedly stood on the land where the police station and magistrates\' court now stand, was known as ‘die Spookhuis’. Could the reason be - that just maybe - this might have been the site of Calitzdorp\'s first unmarked, unidentified cemetery?
Axe Hill winery was named after stone-age hand tools, from some 250 thousand years ago, found on the property when the farm was being established by the late Tony Mossop and his wife Lyn.
It is rumoured that Cecil John Rhodes gave a speech to Calitzdorp residents from the steps of the beautiful residence at 1 Queen Street, but so far we have found no proof of him visiting the town.
Old timers have suggested that the beautiful home at 1 Queen street was ransacked or torched by Boer Commandant Gideon Scheepers and his men during the second Anglo-Boer War. We have found no proof - but we do know that Scheepers was active in the Calitzdorp area at the time.
In 1922 when Howard Carter opened Tutankhamen’s tomb in Egypt, one of the first things he found was a perfect, 3,000 year old, ivory-handled ostrich feather fan.
In 1918 there were outlying schools in Groenfontein, Buffelskloof, Buffelsjagsfontein, Gamka-Oos, Gamka-Wes, Huisrivier, Janfourieskraal, Kruisrivier-Wes, Uitvlug, Warmbad en Warmwater, along with the Juta and Reenen school.
Spekboom - Portulacaria afra - takes in and uses huge volumes of atmospheric carbon – part of the global warming problem – and converts it into oxygen. How great is that? Plant some and help save the world!
\'Kougoed\' - the Kanna plant, Sceletium tortuosum of the Mesembryanthemoideae family - is a local ancient herb with mood enhancing properties said to rival Prozac! – but it is non addictive and has no side effects.
In 1869 Arthur Douglass invented an ostrich incubator , causing a stir in the Little Karoo where farmers now started fencing their lands to farm ostriches more intensively
In 1872 Mr Burdett opened Calitzdorp’s first shop
On the 3rd of July 2015, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation), at a meeting held in Bonn in Germany, approved the elevation of the existing Rooiberg, Gamkaberg and Groenefontein Protected Areas, to the status of World Heritage Sites
Each return journey of the steam train between Oudtshoorn and Calitzdorp, burned up four tons of coal!
The first regular train from Oudtshoorn ran into Calitzdorp on Friday 14th November 1924 and the official opening took place a few days later on the 20th November.
Seweweekspoort peak at 2,352m is not only the highest peak in the Klein Swartberg range, it is also the highest in the Western Cape. Classified as an ultra prominent peak it is also the 8th highest peak in South Africa.
Endemic to Seweweekspoort, the first specimens of an unknown, rare Protea were collected by botanists T P Stoekoe and R Primos in 1928. Later thought to be extinct – this Protea Aristata was ‘re-discovered’ in 1953.
The survey for the new Huisrivier Pass was started in 1951. It took almost ten years to find a suitable route over the difficult, treacherous mountains to Ladismith, before construction of the Pass could start.
Seweweekspoort’s rare endemic red Aristata protea was proudly displayed on the 10 cent postage stamp of the South African 1977 Protea Series.
Calitzdorp became the Port capital of South Africa by accident. Years ago, Shiraz vines ordered and planted by the Nel family of de Krans, later turned out to be Touriga Nacional – the main port grape! What a happy mistake!
On 25 December, 2015 there was a full moon. Younger than 38 years old at the time? Then this would have been your first Christmas full moon. The last one was in 1977 and the next one will only be on 25 December 2034!
Everyone knows South Africa’s symbols – the flower symbol is the King Protea, the animal is the springbok, the tree is the Real Yellowwood and the bird is the Blue Crane. But did you know that we have a national fish? Believe it or not, we do! the Galjoen
Western Cape’s provincial symbols : The provincial flower is the Red Disa, the provincial tree is the Silver Tree. Our animal is the Bontebok and our provincial bird is the Cape Sugarbird
The ostrich is the world\'s largest flightless bird, followed in size by Australia\'s Emu and Cassowary.
The Cape Leopard is a small animal - probably the size of a large dog – and is half the size and weight of its Kruger Park cousins. The average weight of a male Cape Leopard is about 35 kilograms.
No longer viable, the Oudtshoorn - Calitzdorp train service was officially stopped and the line closed to regular traffic on 31 May 1993.

Kango river & valley

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This may surprise you – Calitzdorp is situated proudly at the mouth of the Kango river in the Kango Valley.

Calitzdorp dam

Calitzdorp dam

Also on the Kango river and in the Kango valley are Calitzdorp Dam, Kraaldoorn, Groenfontein and Kruisrivier!  Confused?  Read on!

Many years ago, the Swartberg mountains  themselves were known  as the Cango – a Khoisan word believed to mean place rich in water.

A scientific paper at the end of the last century on the archaeological dig at Boomplaas cave (just 4 kilometers from the Cango caves) situated ‘in the Cango Valley in the foothills of the Swartberg mountain range’   describes the Cango valley thus:

Kango / Nel's river catchment area (recorded in 1950s)

Kango / Nel’s river catchment area (recorded in 1950s)  Click to enlarge

The name Cango Valley describes the valleys of the streams draining the southern flanks of the Swartberg, the Grobelaars River flowing east at the base of the Boomplaas ridge and the Matjes River flowing west. 

This particular article relates to the valleys east of Kruisrivier which itself lies in the very centre of the valley. We now look at the section to the west of Kruisrivier.

At Kruisrivier there is a watershed – The Matjiesrivier draining to the east, and Nel’s river draining to the west. The eastern half of the valley is certainly known as the Cango valley today.  But what of the other half – the continuation of the valley from Kruisrivier westward along the Nel’s river to Calitzdorp?  The rivers here also drain the southern flanks of the Swartberg. Why should only half of a continuous valley be recognised?

The detailed map of the catchment area of the Nel’s river (left), clearly shows how many streams drain the southern flank of the Swartberg mountains to form this river. To the immediate right or east of Groeneberg Peak, (but unnamed on the map), is the Kango Peak (Cango Berg) which rises directly over Kruisrivier – the easternmost stream source of the Nel’s river.

The first mention of the Cango comes from an old book about place names of the Cape Colony, in which the advance of explorers to the interior is recorded.  One explorers’ branch went north from Mossel Bay to ‘Kruis Rivier aan de Cango in 1759.’  Here the book also notes that

‘From the latter the Cango Caves, discovered in 1780, take their name.

In 1757 Jacobus Pretorius was the first known settler in the Calitzdorp area, having acquired a farm which he named ‘Buffelsvlei’

In 1759, the name ‘Cango’ was first seen on a legal document with the granting of land to Johannes Strydom as follows :

“De Kruys Rivier voor aan de Cango, geleegen over de Oliphantsrivier”

And Kruisrivier is right in the middle of the valley at the foot of the Cango Berg peak.  This is the only peak in the whole Swartberg range with the name Cango, and is reasonably distant from the caves themselves.

In 1760  Louis Nel  was granted land in Groenfontein.

Hamlets in the valley – Kruisrivier, Groenfontein, Kraaldoorn – all the names of original farms, seem to have accepted the valley as Groenfontein – even though Groenfontein was merely the name of one of the original farms in the valley.











The now world famous Cango caves at the base of the Tigerberg peak in the Swartberg mountains, were caves in the Cango mountains – hence the Cango Caves.

Discovered in 1780, these caves were originally known by early Oudtshoorn visitors as ‘Die Druipkelder. The Cango Caves are not The Cango, nor do they give their name to the immediate vicinity. In fact the reverse is true. Their name merely identifies their position – that they are caves located in the Swartberg (Cango) mountains.

Had the original Cango mountain name faded out with history, the caves might just as easily have remained Die Druipkelder, or have become the Swartberg Caves.

From Kruisrivier at the foot of the Cango Peak, 1834-buffelsvlei-subdivision-map the river now known as Nel’s river – which runs through the valley and flows westward from Kruisrivier turning gradually south past Calitzdorp to join the Gamka river – was originally named the Kango river.

And there the river’s name proudly stands – the Kango river – confirmation, on a map dated 1834.  (HC Hopkins ‘Ned. Geref. Kerk Calitzdorp 1873-1973’).  Shown merely as an ‘opstal’  here, this is where the town of Calitzdorp grew. (Click map to enlarge)

The original document of April 1834 shows the subdivision of the 2552 morgen of the farm Buffelsvlei – Quitrent No 49 –  (then owned by the brothers JJ and MC Calitz) Five sections were sold as follows :  576 morgen to S S Stassen, 287 to Jeanetta W Strydom (born Swanepoel), 250 m to Jacobus Strydom, 300½ m to G J Strydom and 255 m to Fredderick Calitz (possibly the owners’ older brother)

So as late as 1834 the Kango river is clearly documented as flowing through the Cango Valley, past what became Calitzdorp  and into the Gamka river.

There are title deeds of properties from Calitzdorp to Kruisrivier which to this day show  the Kango river as a boundary.

Map 1847 - Nel's property

Map 1847 – Nel’s property – Click to enlarge

By 1847 a Surveyor General’s Map of the Field Cornetcy of Cango, District of George, dated 25 Jan 1847 and housed in the Calitzdorp Museum, shows that Daniel Nel owned almost all the Kango river and valley farmland between Calitzdorp and Kraaldoorn; namely ‘Kraaldorn Farm’ and the bordering farm, lot ‘O’ on the map. It is assumed that this was why the river lost its identity to become known as ‘Nel’s river’.

When schooling started taking on some importance in the mid 1860s, old records state that a teacher named Koertzen was teaching at a school in Kruisrivier ‘in die Kango’.  So at this point, although the river had lost its name, the valley area was still known as the Cango / Kango.

On a map used by the British during the second Anglo-Boer war in 1902, on the mountain immediately north west of Kruis Rivier, the name Cango Berg is clearly marked. Not only that, but in large lettering right over Kruisrivier is the district name – Gango West (as spelled on the map).

Frustratingly though, despite many smaller rivers being named on this map, the Nel’s / Kango river remains without identification.


Imperial Anglo-Boer Wae map c 1902

Imperial Anglo-Boer War map c 1902 – Click to enlarge                                                                                                                                              This map can be opened to an even larger size at the University of Cape Town’s map library, here


There is a river today which joins the Olifants river at Dysseldorp. its source is the confluence of two rivers which rise in the Great Swartberg catchment area. These two are the Grootrivier and Meulrivier and at their confluence the river becomes the Cango / Kango river, (spelling depends on which map you consult) known as such for the stretch from the confluence to the Olifants river. On the Anglo Boer war map the name of this river is unclear, but might have been known as the Braake river – a name marked in the vicinity on the map. The Groot and Meul rivers rise some distance to the east of the Cango caves and Oudtshoorn.

There are many rivers draining the southern flanks of the Swartberg mountains which can thus claim the Cango valley, but only Calitzdorp sits proudly at the very mouth of the Kango river in the Kango Valley .  (With a ‘K’ as on the map), and Kraaldoorn, Groenfontein and Kruisrivier are all situated in the valley on the Kango River itself.

Kango river and Cango river? A problem?  Well then we must start talking about all the other Nel’s rivers across the country and the towns of Ladismith and Ladysmith; Middelburg and Middleburg – and so on.