Western Soutpansberg

Levhuvhu gorge

Sandrivier Gorge

Makgabeng evidence for terrestrial life

Geological Time Scale

Geology and Geography

For a comprehensive synthesis of the Soutpansbergs geology click hear

The Soutpansberg Group occupies a graben within the Limpopo belt situated on the northern rime of the Kaapvaal craton. The Soutpansberg geological system has an approximate age of 1,7 giga-years. The mountain was created by successive ESE–WSW faulting, ranging over a distance of 560 km. This faulting caused the strata to dip to the north, and rise in the south, thus forming the main cliff lines which are south-facing with the northern side dipping at an incline of approximately 45° (Western Soutpansberg).

Within the Phanerozoic era the Soutpansberg became covered by Karroo Sequence sediments (Levhuvhu gorge). The landscape then was featureless until 40–50 mega-years ago when the Karroo sediments eroded away to expose the harder Soutpansberg strata. To the north of the mountain, remains of the Karroo system can still be found. Within them, one finds various coal deposits. The formation of the Sandrivier Gorge, occurred during Karroo times. The Sandrivier probably ran along a fault in the Karroo strata. After eroding its way through the strata it came up to the harder Soutpansberg strata, it could not deviate its course so it started to cut through the harder underlying rock. As the Karroo sediment was eroded away the river maintained its course through the mountain.

The main rock formations of the mountain comprise of sandstone, quartz sandstone and quartzite, with a couple of igneous intrusions consisting mainly of basalt and dolerite. The main soils of the area are derived from weathered sandstone and quartzite, giving rise to sandy soils. In general these soils are relatively acidic and nutrient poor. The weathered lava gives rise to rich clay soils.

Mineral rich areas are to be found both north and south of the mountain, whereas the mountain itself is relatively poorly mineralized. The most abundant mineral is quartz, but of poor quality. Other minerals are: iron, copper, refractory flint, salt, sillimanite, gold and coal. Circa 300 AD metals were exploited from the mountain range. Diggings were proclaimed in the early part of this century, however gold deposits were found to be uneconomical. Massive coal beds stretch along the northern perimeter of the range.

All the rivers that flow through, or originate in the mountain, are tributaries of the Limpopo River Basin. The main river systems are:

  • Luvuvhu, originating due east of Louis Trichardt.
  • Mutale, originating in Thathe Vondo.
  • Mutamba, originating on the farm Buelgum Poort.
  • Nwanedzi, originating near Mavhode.
  • Nzhelele, originating in Thathe Vondo.
  • Sandrivier originating between Potgietersrus and Pietersburg.