The Vaal River forms the natural boundary between Gauteng and the Free State Province, but also gives life to the whole of Gauteng. This powerful natural resource also feeds the industries in Southern Gauteng and is well managed. The Loch Vaal Reservoir that supplies Gauteng with its much-needed water was constructed in 1923 and in 1936 the Vaal Dam was built further upstream.
The Vaal River and the Vaal Dam are also the places where weary city-dwellers congregate to wash away the city dirt. People have gone to great lengths to be as close to the river as possible, building residential areas and numerous holiday resorts on the river’s banks. The Vaal Dam, with its large sailing area, flat water and good winds is considered to be one of South Africa’s best places for both boardsailing and waterskiing. Launch sites abound around the dam and the two most accessible sites are situated at Vanderbijlpark and Vereeniging. Canoeists consider the dam to be one of the best venues for flat-water canoeing trips and many also often negotiate the Vaal River all the way down to where it meets the mighty Orange River.
The Vaal River two-day river-rafting race from the Vaal Dam to Free State town of Parys has become an annual event. The trip is not very strenuous and features grade two rapids. Large fishing competitions are also held at some of the resorts on the riverbanks.
The towns of Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark represent the economic heart of the Vaal Triangle area. The other town, Sasolburg, across the Vaal River is in Northern Free State. And, although this region narrowly missed sharing the country’s gold resources, they received their own gifts from nature. A variety of other minerals, notably coal, are mined here. While Vereeniging had coal mining to thank for its establishment, the town of Vanderbijlpark was planned as an “iron and steel” town, right from the start! This area also became home to Eskom’s huge power stations, the source of electricity for the Witwatersrand gold mining industry.