SETTING OFF: The start of the Berg River Canoe Marathon 2018 at Market Street Bridge in Paarl where the leading paddlers took off at a cracking pace.Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Cape Town - With dam levels reaching an average of 47.2% and the Berg River flowing at the highest level it's been at in the past five years, paddlers entering the Berg River Canoe Marathon are gearing up for an exciting race.

The Department of Water Affairs's Giel van Deventer, who manages the Berg River catchment area, said the race - which started on Wednesday and ends on Saturday - said the cold front and rain in the Western Cape last week had sent the river levels soaring.

Van Deventer said the river is running at 100 cubic metres per second and lower down, around Drie Heuwels, the river is flowing at over 250 cubic metres, which has resulted in the Misverstand Dam overflowing in the past week.

Local government, environmental affairs and development planning MEC Anton Bredell agreed with Van Deventer, and said the dams feeding the City are all looking much healthier.

“Only weeks ago, the Clanwilliam Dam was below 10%. The dam, one of the biggest in the province, is full and the sluices were opened at the past weekend. It's an incredible turnaround,” said Bredell.

Van Deventer added that "even if we have no more rain before the race, we will have good water for the Berg River event. After four tough years of low water, we are really looking forward to this year’s race.”

The 57th marathon is being held in honour of Nelson Mandela’s centenary this year and will feature a series of five Nelson Mandela Centenary Freedom Walks, which will finish at the Berg River Marathon viewpoints.

Chairperson of the Berg River Marathon management committee, André Collins, said entry for the walk was free and each participant would receive a specially designed commemorative Freedom Walk Medal on completion.

The five planned walks include: the 2.5/5km walk Paarl Arboretum was held at 8am yesterday; 2.5km Rondeheuwel Primary School/Hermon to Du Vlei Farmstall at 10am yesterday; 3km Carl Schreve Primary School/Wittewater to Moravia at 10am tomorrow; 2km Broodkraal Primary School to Moravia at 10am tomorrow; and 4km Velddrif/Carinus Bridge to Bokkomlaan at 9am on Saturday.

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Cape Argus