Two rivers, the “River of Sorrow” and the “River of Joy,” which met in the “Land of the Rising Sun,” carved what is now known as “Nature’s Wishing Well.” This province in Mpumalanga was given a melodic name that was inspired by the dawn in the local Zulu tribal language. The Afrikaans Voortrekkers, on the other hand, gave the Treur River its name; the translated name, Blyde River, reflects their initial sadness but eventual delight.
Over countless eons, the confluence of these two rivers gradually eroded the red sandstone of the Blyde River Canyon, giving rise to the geological wonder known as Bourke’s Luck Potholes. These potholes are now adorned with tokens from well-wishers. They take their name from Tom Bourke, an 18th-century prospector who, despite his unfortunate luck in finding gold, left a lasting legacy as his namesake rock formations collect coins bearing golden wishes, tumbling down the sheer cliff faces into these water-sculpted pits. Although Bourke’s quest for gold proved fruitless, it eventually brought fortune to other gold seekers in the region.
Much like the bold and vibrant geometric art of the Ndebele people adorns traditional local architecture, the cylindrical swirl holes, formed by centuries of water currents carrying debris, sand, and pebbles, have left their mark on the streaked yellow and white rocks adorned with lichen. This unique natural phenomenon marks the beginning of the third-largest canyon in the world and stands as a testament to South Africa’s distinct geological heritage.
A network of suspended pedestrian bridges and hiking paths wind their way around this collection of dark pools that now dot the riverbed of what was once a swiftly flowing watercourse. At the on-site Visitors Centre, you can explore a model of the Blyde River Canyon and discover informative displays on culture, history, fauna, and flora.