The Fish River Canyon is the largest canyon in Africa and the second largest canyon worldwide after the Grand Canyon in the USA. The Canyon forms part of the state-run Ais-Ais Richtersveld Transfontier Park. Entrance to the Park is situated 10 kilometres from the well-known view point Hell`s Bend at the Hobas Restcamp.
The Fish River is 800 kilometres long and thus the longest river of Namibia. It has its source in the eastern parts of the Naukluft Mountains. After about 200 km the river flows into the Hardap Dam which is the largest water reservoir of the country with a circumference of 30 km and a surface area of 28 km². After being retained the Fish River does not carry water continuously, only during the rainy season the river might turns into a torrent. During the dry season sporadic pools supply water to many animals.
The Fish River Canyon is located in the south of Namibia. It is the largest canyon in Africa, as well as the second most visited tourist attraction in Namibia. It features a gigantic ravine, in total about 100 miles (160 km) long, up to 27 km wide and in places almost 550 meters deep.
The Fish River is the longest interior river in Namibia. It cuts deep into the plateau which is today dry, stony and sparsely covered with hardy drought-resistant plants. The river flows intermittently, usually flooding in late summer; the rest of the year it becomes a chain of long narrow pools. At the lower end of the Fish River Canyon, the hot springs resort of Ai-Ais is situated. Public view points are near Hobas, a camp site 70 km north of Ai-Ais. This part of the canyon is part of the Ai-Ais/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park. The other 90 km of this canyon are privately owned.
The trail starts from the car park 13 kilometres west from Hobas. The descent is steep and chains are provided to assist hikers over the first 100 meters. Thereafter the unmarked path follows a gravel trail to the beach at the bottom. On the descent some misleading game trails lead to the north and should be avoided.
The trail can be divided into three notable sections:
The history of some of the oldest rocks in Namibia cut by the Fish River started over a billion years ago. A might mountain range eroded down to a vast plain flooded by the ocean about 650 million years ago. Then about 350 million years ago the biological formation of the Fish River Canyon started. A vast graben formed along old tectonic faults. It formed the broad ancient valley of the Fish River. The edges of this graben that are more than 20 km apart today form the upper edges of the canyon. After the formation of the graben structure 300 million years ago the riverbed was still 300 metres higher than it is today. With the so-called Gondwana-Glaciation glaciers further deepened the graben. Today ice in the canyon is completely unimaginable.
With the separation of the continent Gondwana about 120 million years ago and the uplifting of the African continent the gradient of the Fish River increased allowing it to erode even deeper into the rock. Today the deepest point of the canyon is 549 metres deep.
The Fish River Canyon Area supplies several airstips for private and charter flights:
The Fish River Canyon in Namibia's South is one of the world's largest canyons and one of Namibia's most recognised natural wonders, with a private nature reserves such as the Canyon Nature Park.
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