The Swartkops river estuary with its adjacent salt-pans that surround Rivers Edge Guesthouse provide a maze of interesting trails over flat terrain during the dry season, which is ideal for mountain biking.
Ensure that your bike tyres have inner linings and foam sealant as there are a lot thorns along parts of the dirt track routes. Note that the routes are not marked – the aerial image shown is a rough estimation only.
The Swartkops River is an area of immense beauty and has significant environmental importance. The origin and source of the river lies in the pristine area below the Cockscomb Mountain and the beautiful valleys, surrounding hills and flood plains are seldom seen due to inaccessibility (except by mountain bike of course!).
The Swartkops River flows from its catchment in the Cockscomb Mountain range 144km west of Uitenhage and descends a relatively steep, narrow valley through the Groendal Nature Reserve before flattening out as it winds past Dispatch and Redhouse to spread out over the estuary, which is tidal for 16 km upstream. The upper reaches of the river are narrow and channel-like, twisting through steep banks until it reaches the estuary, where it widens and becomes less convoluted between Bar None Salt Pans and Brickfields in the middle reaches. The north and south banks of the river are flanked by the Redhouse Salt Pans, operated by Cerebos, while the Chatty Salt Pans lie south of the Swartkops–Redhouse railway line. Additional salt pans on the Motherwell side of the estuary are in the Zwartkops Valley Nature Reserve.
The Swartkops Valley Nature Reserve, along the northern border of the estuary, conserves the terrestrial vegetation, which is low lying across most of the plains but does form a dense closed canopy up to 5 m high in places and serves to bind the shallow topsoil protecting the underlying clay. The natural vegetation is mostly intact, although prickly pear (Opuntia) species and jointed cactus (O. aurantiaca) have invaded 1% of the reserve’s area. An application is being made for this reserve to become a Ramsar site.