As entries opened for the 2023 N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon at the end of January, the Underberg-based Canyon Kayak Club is continuing its fifteen year-old campaign to rid the uMzimkhulu River valley of the Black Wattle alien invader trees.
In 2009 the Canyon Kayak Club committee set aside funds from the hosting of the popular two day canoeing race to start dealing with the infestation of Black Wattle in what was known as the Black Forest on the first ten kilometres of the race below Restmount bridge.
The process involved ring-barking and the removal of Black Wattle using local contractors and staff, and made an immediate impact on that section of river, encouraging the club to commit to keeping the project going.
With the support of the race sponsors, each year during the winter months when the river is low a team of workers takes on the task of clearing a new section of the river banks.
Into it’s fifteen year, the rolling programme of Black Wattle eradication has garnered greater support, as the organisers of the Euro Steel Drak Descent MTB races and Euro Steel Run The Rivers trail runs have joined forces with the canoe club to strengthen the battle against the Black Wattle.
The combined effort has been strengthened by funding provided by the Underberg/Himeville Trout Fishing Club, which shares a common interest in the removal of the alien invader from the banks of the uMzimkhulu River and its tributaries.
“This is not a battle that we can win in a few weeks but rather a war that is made up of numerous battles,” said club chair Andrew Barnett.
“Each year we identify and prioritise a section of the river that is in most urgent need of Black Wattle eradication, we set aside funds and appoint local contractors and staff and do as much as we can during the winter months.
“We have to circle back and continually return to some of the worst Black Wattle infestations to tackle any regrowth and remove as much Wattle as we can,” said Barnett.
“It is central to our belief that that events like the N3TC Drak Challenge and the other events that make up the Drak Adventure Weekend can make a meaningful, ongoing contribution to our community.
“We have spent a lot of money over the last fifteen years, and we have made a major impact on the Upper Gorge, which the paddlers call the Valley of a Thousand Rapids and the Underberg Gorge from Scotston’s bridge down to Glenhaven, as well as dealing with Black Wattle growth on other sections of the river.
“It is rewarding when paddlers come back to the river each year and notice the positive impact that the winter Wattle clearing has had on the river banks,” he added.
Paddlers are encouraged to make a donation to the Wattle Clearing Fund with their race entries every year to assist the Canyon Kayak Club with its efforts each year to advance the Black Wattle eradication programme.