Paardepoort (P0413)

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Inside the first of the 3 poorts Inside the first of the 3 poorts - Photo: Trygve Roberts

Paardepoort, which carries the road number P0413, is a long gravel road connecting three distinct poorts that cut through the east-west running ridges just north of the R75 main road between Kirkwood and Jansenville. It services a number of farms and provides a lovely gravel alternative from Kirkwood to the Darlington Dam and similarly an enjoyable return route after completing the Bedrogfontein 4x4 route.

It's a long poort at 16.4 km but the ever changing scenery between tall moungtains and craggy outcrops in the poorts to the open farmland between each of the poorts, provides a wonderful variety of scenery. Allow about 40 minutes to drive the poort, excluding stops. It's best to drive on deflated tyres (1.4 bar recommended) for improved traction, a softer ride and a reduced risk of punctures. But do not drive faster than 80 kph on soft tyres and reinflate as soon as you are back on tar.

There are a number of game farms and upmarket hunting lodges in the area, including Koffylaagte.



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[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

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Note: Google Earth software reads the actual topography and ignores roads, cuttings, tunnels, bridges and excavations. The Google Earth vertical-profile animation generates a number of parallax errors, so the profile is only a general guide of what to expect in terms of gradients, distance and elevation. The graph may present some impossible and improbably sharp spikes, which should be ignored.

Digging into the details:

Getting there: To approach from the south as we have filmed it, drive along the R75 (either from the west from Wolwefontein -24 km or from the east at Kirkwood - 38 km. Turn north onto a gravel road at GPS S33.368494 E25.047273 and drive for 0.5 km towards the Sapkamma Station, to arrive at the southern start of the poort.

For those wanting to approach from the north, turn off the R75 at GPS S33.094320 E25.868784 onto the R400 and turn right again onto a smaller gravel road after just 0.2 km, heading into the south-east. Continue for 25 km ignoring all turn-offs to reach the northern start of the poort.

Technical: This is a relatively easy drive with the biggest danger being flash floods. All of the rivers are crossed via concrete culverts and as is the nature of all poorts, when a large amount of water is forced through a narrow gap in the mountains, conditions can very quickly become life threatening. If there is stormy weather on the horizon, be careful that you dont get trapped in one of the poorts.

Plenty of variety on this route / Photo: Trygve Roberts

History of the area: The Governor of the Cape Colony, Sir John Francis Cradock, gave the first farms in the Sundays River Valley to the leaders of the successful burger commandos for their role in the victories in the border wars of 1811 and 1812.

These farms were awarded to Magistrate Cuyler (originally from the United States) of Uitenhage, who received Geelhoutboom (Yellow Tree, later Dunbrody); Commandant Ignatius Muller, who received Klaaskraal (Klaas' Corral, situated just outside what is now Kirkwood) and Field Cornet J.S. van Niekerk, who received Gouwernements Belooning (Government's Reward). It is on the latter farm that Kirkwood would be established many decades later.

In 1877 James Somers Kirkwood, an auctioneer from Port Elizabeth, arrived to auction off Gouwernements Belooning. When a flooded Sundays River prevented Kirkwood from reaching this farm he climbed a nearby hill (known today as The Lookout) instead. From there he had a view of the entire valley and had a vision of the valley - which was overgrown by bushes at the time - being transformed into irrigated fields with fruit trees. He also envisioned this farm produce being delivered via river barges to Port Elizabeth.

Shortly afterwards, James himself purchased "Goewernements Belooning" as well as some other farms in the valley. He subsequently founded the Sundays River Land and Irrigation Company as well as the village of Bayville.

Later, Kirkwood started to prepare the land for irrigation, but despite of a very positive prospectus and very good publicity, nobody was interested in buying stock in his venture. One of the reasons may be that it coincided with the big diamond rush to Kimberley. In consequence, his company eventually failed and was declared bankrupt. Kirkwood died in 1889, a financially and spiritually broken man.

Citus orchards at Kirkwood / Photo: Carel Stone

However, Kirkwood can be considered to have been ahead of his time as his vision became true in the next century when the Sundays River Irrigation Project and eventually the Orange River Water Project were built. His name also lives on in the town of Kirkwood that was founded in 1912 on his first farm, Gouwernements Belooning.

At the beginning of the 19th century, the Sundays River formed the eastern border of the then Cape Colony and was the area around Kirkwood consequently the scene of many armed conflicts - Khoi against Xhosa, Khoi and Xhosa together against the Boers and British together and finally the Boers against the British during the Second Anglo-Boer War.

During this war, General Jan Smuts and his Commando of 250 men passed through the valley on their epic campaign to the northwest. Indeed, the three Boers who died the furthest south during the war were killed on Cecil John Rhodes's farm Brakkefontein. Shortly after these casualties were incurred a major battle took place on the Bedrogfontein mountain pass.

Kirkwood's subtropical climate makes it ideal for the growing of citrus fruits and this has made it the citrus capital of the Eastern Cape. Indeed, Kirkwood is the center of one of the largest citrus-growing regions in South Africa with approximately 120 square kilometres (30,000 acres) of citrus orchards. Approximately 18 million cartons of oranges, lemons, grapefruit and other citrus fruit are exported from this region each year.

The Sundays River Citrus Company employs approximately 1500 people on a seasonal basis to pack the export citrus. There are packhouses in Kirkwood, Addo and Summerville. Kirkwood is also the capital town of the Sundays River Valley Municipality, which also includes places such as Paterson, Addo and Enon, and has a total population of about 70,000 people.

Roses are also grown in the area and there are several game farms situated nearby. The town also hosts an annual Wildlife Festival. A panoramic view of Kirkwood and the surrounding citrus groves is possible from The Lookout in the Rietberg Mountains, where Kirkwood had his vision. The Lookout is also well known as a dinosaur fossil site. The first complete dinosaur fossil to be found in South Africa, nicknamed "Kirky", was discovered near here. Kirky was smaller than 2 meters.

The South African Weather Service recorded a temperature of 50.3 °C in Kirkwood in 1928 - the highest temperature ever recorded in South Africa.To the north of Kirkwood are the Rietberg Mountains with the Uyepoort (Uye Gateway), which provides passage to the Zuurberg Mountains and the Addo Elephant National Park.

Darlington dam wall / Photo: Wikipedia

To the north east of the poort lies the Darlington Dam. It's also referred to as Lake Mentz and is a gravity type dam situated in the Sundays River, near Kirkwood. It was completed in 1922 and only filled by 1928, the delay a result of extensive drought.

The primary objective of building the dam was to provide adequate and perennial supplies of water for large-scale irrigation in a fertile area, particularly by storing and controlling flood waters. By 1917, the Sundays River Irrigation Board was established and took over the project from the government's Irrigation Department in 1918. The construction experienced many setbacks, including lack of materials and machinery, with shortages caused by the First World War, unsuitable labour (returning soldiers), the 1918 influenza epidemic, bubonic plague, very difficult logistics and drought. The delays in completion caused severe financial difficulties to the irrigation companies and eventually the State had to take over the debts of the irrigators and £2,350,000 had to be written off.

The original dam was designed to store 142 million m3. The high sediment yield of the Sundays River meant that sediment delivery into the reservoir basin quickly reduced its capacity. The dam wall was raised by 1.5 m in 1935 and again by 5.8 m (total capacity 327,628,072 m3) in 1951/52 to cope with the loss of storage volume. By 1979 the reservoir had lost 41.47% of its design capacity, with ~135,870,000 m3 of sediment captured behind the wall.


[Video cover photo: Trygve Roberts]

The impoundment now has a capacity of 187,000,000 cubic metres, with a 35.3 metre-high wall. Its primary purpose is for irrigation, industrial and domestic use.

The serious drought of 1966 and 1967 emphasized the necessity to commence work on the Skoenmakers Canal (capacity: 22 m3/s) to link the Great Fish River to Darlington Dam as soon as possible. In view of an expected increase in irrigation below Darlington Dam and the demand for water in the Port Elizabeth metropolitan area, it was decided to replace the Wellington Grove pumping station with De Mistkraal Weir upstream of Wellington Grove and a short section of connecting canal to the beginning of the Skoenmakers Canal.

Dutch reformed Church, Jansenville

To the north-west of the Paardepoort lies the Karoo town of Jansenville. Like Kirkwood it also lies along the banks of the Sundays River, 87 km south of Graaff-Reinet. Laid out on the farm Vergenoegd in 1854, it was proclaimed in 1855 and became a municipality in 1881. Said to have been named after General Jan Willem Janssens (1762-1838), the last Batavian Governor of the Cape.

In the late 1700s, outposts of the Cape Colony, in the form of the trek boer and hunters had reached and crossed the Sundays River.

The greater portion of what now constitutes the Janesville district fell under Uitenhage. The first European to settle here was Christiaan Ernst Schutte, who obtained title to land surveyed by James Swan in June 1818 described as "Late Loan Place Vergenoegd" of 3000 morgen, and granted to C.E. Schutte in 1820. Schutte was required to pay to "The Receiver General of Land Revenue" an annual quitrent of 50 Rix dollars. Schutte later sold to Prinsloo and moved northwards, to be followed by the latter when fierce, impetuous Petrus Fourie, arrived from Swellendam in 1838, to become the new owner of Vergenoegd.

His veins flowing with Huguenot industry, Fourie found the land good. The muddy waters of the Sundays spread fertile, alluvial soil along its banks. Fourie and his sons began to cultivate, and before long one hundred morgen were under crops.

The Great North tract passed over Vergenoegd. It was used by hundreds of ox wagons en route to Port Elizabeth, and returning with merchandise. The transport riders found good pasture and ample provisions in wheat, mealies and meat; the district was becoming populous.

In 1853 Petrus Fourie arranged for layout and survey of about 80 erven for the establishment of a township named Alexandria in honor of Ds. Alexander Smith, NGK Minister at Uitenhage, who visited the congregation once a quarter. However, by the time the application reached the authorities at the Cape, another community near the coast had beaten Fourie to the name. Jansenville was then decided on in honor of General Janssens, last of the Dutch Governors at the Cape, and Commander of the Dutch forces at the fateful Battle of Muizenberg

In 1881 Jansenville became a municipality, and the large surrounding electoral division was named after it (returning two members to the Cape Parliament). The little town of Jansenville owes its origins to the Dutch Reformed Church which formed a parish there in 1854 named after the last Dutch Governor of the Cape.

Jansenville is north of the Zuurberg Mountains in an area known as the Noorsveld, after a cactus-like succulent that is common in the district. Between Jansenville and the Zuurberg to the south is a plain that marks the northern boundary of the Addo National Park, while to the north are some hills which have a scenic drive and, at the summit, shortly before the descent through the Ratelskloof Pass, there are views across the Camdeboo plains to the peaks of the Sneeuberg.

Jansenville is game country and there are game farms and hunting concessions in the area as well as nature reserves including the Addo Elephant National Park. The town's notable buildings include the large Dutch Reformed Church, a building in the basilican style made of local stone which is a heritage site. The Anglo-Boer War fort north of the town attests to the guerrilla activity in the area in that conflict. The restored Sid Fourie House serves as a museum.

Fact File:


S33.364645 E25.045746


S33.264850 E25.007607


S33.264850 E25.007607














16.4 km




25 minutes


60 kph


Gravel (P1430)






Kirkwood (38 km)

Route Map:

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Route files:

||Click to download: Paardepoort (P1430) (Note - This is a .kmz file which can be opened in Google earth and most GPS software systems)


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