Zandvlei Trust

Historical Zandvlei (Extract article from the 1999 Autumn Newsletter)

Mention of Zandvlei can be found in the Dutch documents as early as Jan van Riebeek and Simon van der Stel. The original name was Zand Vallei and documents mention a pan of water that dried up seasonally leaving a huge sand valley hence the Dutch word Zand Vallei shortened to Zandvlei.

Maps drawn for the 1795 Battle of Muizenberg show a huge catchment area starting in numerous rivers off Muizenberg, steenberg and Tokai mountains also south end of Table Mountainrange, with these rivers feeding into big ponds Princessvlei ending in Langevlei, Rondevlei and Zand Vallei. All these areas are rain dependent hence their function.
The mouth of Zandvlei is shown in 1795 as a separate tidal area, with a big pond and four little rivers feeding into Zand Vallei. This is the esturine area and is fed with water mainly from the sea, but with fresh water when the Zand Vallei burst its banks during rainy weather and pourd into the sea.The conflict over the use of Zandvlei as a recreational began in 1894 when rowing was popular and Zandvlei was used by the Table Bay Boating Association. A Mr William Scuthie is recorded as asking that the vlei be converted into a permanent lake for marine pastimes saying that after very heavy rains the mouth was cut and the vlei became shallow making it difficult to hold regattas as the weather and opening of the mouth was unpredictable. The scheme he had would have to obtain from the government the rights over the vlei and several large sums had been offered by merchants. The dimension of the rowing course was marked as one and a haf miles long one mile up and half mile down.

Changes to Zandvlei

During the late 1800's the railway line was built through the northwest section and in those days the water almost reached the Main Road where the westlake Wetlands now are. This corner was called Swartgronddraai, and this could be where the mountain soil ended, the rest of the vlei being Cape Flats Sand yes, parts of Lakeside and the Marina da Gama are in the offical Cape Flats boundary!
It was about this time that the mouth was altered, Royal Road bridge was built and eventually the mouth canalised. The vlei was recreated as one water body and the two distinct divisions disappeared.

A favorite view from the railway line was of the Lakeside Pavillion (sited at the bottom of Rutter Road) with boats for hire. There was no weed in those days and the water expanse was large and enticing, so boating was popular and people came all the way from Cape Town to enjoy an afternoons boating . Most houses around that edge had their own boat garages.

Many changes to the outline of Zandvlei took place during the 1950's when the Cape Town City Council undertook extensive dredging, the making of channels around Lakeside station and parklands on the westbanks and south east through reclaimation and dumping of soil. The west side of Promenarde Road, Lakeside is basically the original shore line.

Note the coffere dam built across the vlei in the middle in 1954.

 Further extensive changes to the east side took place in the 1970's when the Marin da Gama was created and Park Island was man made as an exchange for all the waterside rights taken away from the general public.

Note the dredged canals for the Marina da Gama during 1977.

Perhaps if we went back in history to look at the early days when nature ran its own course, we would find a solution to the present day problems of Zandvlei?

Joye Gibbs


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