The Great Fish River (called great to distinguish from the Namibian Fish River) is a river running through the South African province of the Eastern Cape. The river is 644 km long and flows into the Indian Ocean. The river generally runs (naturally) all year round, although its headwaters rise in an arid region, and the flow could well be sluggish beyond the ebb and flow of the tidal reaches; now, water from the Orange River system can be used to keep up its flow in dry periods. The river is tidal for approximately 20 km.
During the 19th Century
, the river formed the border of the Cape Colony
and was hotly contested during the Xhosa Wars
between the indigenous Xhosa
nation on the one side and the Dutch
farmers and the 1820 Settlers
on the other, and in 1835
, the Fingo
tribe was permitted to settle on the river's banks. During apartheid, the lower reaches formed the western boundary of the nominally independent Ciskei
Orange River Project
In the 1970s, a major water project brought Orange River water, via the Fish River, for agricultural and industrial use. The tunnel for this was a major engineering undertaking, with the intake at Oviston
(an acronym, in Afrikaans, for Orange-Fish Tunnel). Oviston is on the shores of the Gariep Dam
A hydro-electric generating plant is placed at the Fish River egress, but is uneconomic and is not in use.
Mixing of waters from two watersheds is environmentally disastrous - much of the Fish River ecosystem is now taken over by Orange River flora and fauna.
- Despite its name, fishing that takes place along its (mainly lower) reaches is primarily recreational.
- Annually, the Fish River Canoe Marathon, a popular canoeing event takes place over two days from Grassridge Dam to Cradock.
- Diving in the area of the River's mouth is quite an experience, thanks to the numerous shipwrecks which can be found: the SS Cariboo, the SS Kilbrennan and the Waterloo, to name a few.
Cradock is a significant town through which the Fish River runs. The area between Port Elizabeth
and the Fish River is known as the Sunshine Coast
Great Fish Point
Great Fish Point is a lighthouse
situated near the mouth of the Great Fish River, about 25 km from the coastal holiday resort of Port Alfred
Before the lighthouse was built in 1898, two ship's lamps exhibiting fixed green lights were erected on a flagstaff at Port Alfred, but these lights later proved to be inadequate. The clockwork system which used to drive the lens is still intact and on display.
Although the lighthouse itself is only 9 meters high, it is situated 76 meters above sea level.