The building of Hartbeespoort Dam

View from above the Agnes Hotel (later Lake Hotel - now Squiers) towards Kosmos> Propably taken 1945 - 1955?
View from above the Agnes Hotel (later Lake Hotel - now Squiers) towards Kosmos> Propably taken 1945 - 1955?

The first dam in the Hartbeespoort valley was built by the original owner of the farm, Hendrik Schoeman (later general) in 1898. The wall, built with stone and cement, dammed the Crocodile River in the Witwaterspoort south of the current train bridge at Meerhof. Schoeman named the dam Sophiasdam after his wife and the project cost him £10 000. In those years it was the biggest dam in the southern hemisphere.

The construction of the ache - viewed from the northern side of the valley.

The construction of the ache – viewed from the northern side of the valley.

However, the engineer made a crucial calculation mistake and the dam wall was washed away shortly after completion. Johan Schoeman, son of Hendrik Schoeman, revived the idea of building a dam in the poort of the Hartbeespoort valley in 1902 and between 1905 and 1910 various preliminary investigations were undertaken by the then Department of Irrigation of the Republic of the Transvaal.

The suspension bridge used by the construction workers.

The suspension bridge used by the construction workers.

With the establishment of the Union of South Africa in 1910, the investigations were temporarily suspended. Johan Schoeman persisted in following the dream of his father, resulting in the Hartbeespoort Irrigation Scheme (Act 32 of 1914), which authorised the construction of the dam on the farm Hartebeestfontein.
This was again postponed due to the outbreak of the First World War (1914 to 1918).
The building of the dam eventually started in 1918.

After the floods in March, construction started again in April 1921.

After the floods in March, construction started again in April 1921.

A 15 km cocopan railway line was built from the Brits station to transport cement, supplied by Pretoria Portland Cement (PPC). The cocopans were drawn by oxen, horses and mules. Nature again intervened and the construction was washed away during the floods in March 1921.

The Dam wall taking shape

The Dam wall taking shape

After the floods the engineer FW Scott (the origin of Scott Street) revised the building plans and designed the radius arch structure to be supported against the two rock faces on both sides of the poort. Construction of the foundation of the dam wall finally started on the 24 May 1921.

Some Dam facts

•    250 000 bags of cement was used in the construction of the dam
wall.
•    The wall is 59 meters high, 149.5 meters long and 22 meters wide
at its base.
•    The total capacity is 195,000,000 m³
•    The surface area is 20.62 km² and catchment area 4 120 km²
•    The mean depth is 9.6 meters and the deepest point is
45.1 meters.
•    The normal annual water fluctuation is about 1 meter, with the
current water level (29 November 2015) fast approaching 2
meters under the full water mark during the current drought.
•    The Hartbeespoort Dam supplies irrigation water through a 544
kilometre long network of two canals to 160 km² of farmland.

  AUTHOR
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