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Golden Gate & Clarens


Golden Gate derives its name from the sunrays of the setting sun that casts a soft shade on the west facing sandstone cliffs and turns them into a glowing gold colour. It is currently the only proclaimed National Park that protects the grassland biome which is the most neglected biome from the point of view of conservation.

The first inhabitants of this area were the San, judging by the stone tools and rock paintings found at various places throughout Golden Gate.

Golden Gate lies on a watershed, which means that rain falling on the shed-area; either runs down via the Caledon River into the Orange or via the Wilge River into Vaal Dam – Vaal River, all the way to the Atlantic. It is situated in one of the most important Water Catchment Areas in South Africa and more than 50% of the water supply of South Africa comes from this area.

The first ever fossilized Triassic dinosaur eggs were found in the park at Rooi Draai in 1973.

The Golden Gate Valley was one of the areas which was used as a route for the English and Boer armies during the Anglo-Boer War (South African War). The caves and hollow kranzes of Gladstone and Vuurland, two old farms in the park, gave shelter to woman and children who hid away there for many weeks to escape the concentration camps, during the Anglo-Boer War.

There is a Living Museum known as the Basotho Cultural Village situated in the park.

The park is one of the last refuges of the rare Bearded Vulture. The rare bald ibis annually breeds in the Cathedral Cave in the park. Golden Gate has 10 antelope species which are the Eland, Red hartebeest, Black wildebeest, Blesbok, Springbok, Mountain reedbuck, Grey Rhebuck, Grey duiker, Stenbok and the threatened Oribi. At the turn of the century in 1800, the plains around Golden Gate teemed with game.

Clarens is a small town situated in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains in the Free State province of South Africa and nicknamed the “Jewel of the Eastern Free State”. It was established in 1912 and named after the town of Clarens in Switzerland where exiled Paul Kruger spent his last days. Clarens is an artists’ haven with many well-known artists either living in or frequenting the village, with many art galleries scattered around the village square and the town.

Clarens is known for its spectacular sandstone mountains and wonderful climate; it is one of the most picturesque spots in South Africa

From 12 January 2009 the remains of the largest dinosaurs to ever be found on South African soil were discovered in Clarens,  To date (2017) twenty five sites have been recorded, where fossilised bone were found With the discovery of the fossils, the small town of Clarens started giving 2-3 hour dinosaur tours to view the fossils. The Clarens Dinosaur Tour begins with a comprehensive talk on Geology and Paleontology of the region. Viewers then have the opportunity to see a variety of fossils – from teeth, claws and limb bones of the prehistoric giants, to the leaf impressions of ancient ferns – while learning about what the Earth was like during that period and how the different rock layers were formed. The talk is followed by a trip to an ancient trackway, where the fossilized footprints of dinosaurs can be seen and followed.

For those who are not interested in the Fossils, Clarens is a wonderful pictureque little town with many shops and restuarants. The town square is surrounded by these many little shops, galleries and eating establishments. A good place to browse.

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