Lake St Lucia now relinked to uMfolozi River

Some good news from the beautiful Lake St Lucia area of South Africa. Lake St Lucia is a stunningly beautiful lakeland area in northern KwaZulu Natal with Indian Ocean beaches on one side and the Hluhluwe-Umfolozi Game Reserve on the other.

Since 2011 iSimangaliso Wetland Parks has declared that it wanted to let the uMfolozi River and Lake St Lucia rejoin to restore the proper functioning of South Africa’s largest estuarine system. Since 1952 the uMfolozi River has been deliberately separated from the St Lucia system, which in turn has reduced freshwater inflow to Lake St Lucia. These factors, combined with drought conditions during the 2002 – 2010 period, have resulted in the St Lucia estuary mouth remaining closed to the sea for most the last decade. This has meant that St Lucia has not functioned as an estuary and fisheries have been heavily impacted.

To achieve this reconnection, iSimangaliso, together with KZN Wildlife, have excavated to establish a beach spillway between the two mouths. This entailed the removal of old dredger spoil and marine sediments. The process of spillway construction was carefully monitored by Natal Park ecologists. It was completed in early July 2012.

During the dry winter months the Umfolozi river mouth naturally closes up (like Lake St Lucia) but in the summer rain months, the joining of the two estuary mouths will enable sufficient water flow to open Lake St Lucia to the sea.

The removal of the sandplug between the uMfolozi river and St Lucia wetland system was on 6th July. This formally relinked the two river systems for the first time since their separation in 1952. By early Monday morning water levels within the uMfolozi river system had dropped by 25 cm providing a real indication of the effectiveness of the spillway in carrying water into the St Lucia system.

The spillway will provide much needed water for the St Lucia system; ultimately lifting lake levels and contributing towards restoring the estuarine functioning of Lake St Lucia which comprises 60% of South Africa’s estuarine resource.

Click here for more on northern KwaZulu Natal and how you can enjoy visiting this area.

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Kate Bergh is co-founder of Cedarberg African Travel, a specialist tour operator for Southern and East Africa.

She heads up the South African office, having lived in South Africa since 1993. Her home looks up to the Cedarberg Mountains, where she enjoys hiking and cycling, when she’s not out discovering new places to visit, with her three children in tow. Kate has travelled extensively throughout the region to Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, Namibia, Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as most areas of South Africa. She also loves history, meeting people and a good thriller...


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