Bourke's Luck Potholes are a natural water feature found within the Mpumalanga province of South Africa, about 35km north of Graskop on the R532 road. Located at the beginning of the Blyde River Canyon, these cylindrical potholes on the bedrock have been carved over thousands of years by sand and pebbles swirling around in whirlpools when the Treur River plunges into the Blyde River. Initially, water borne pebbles carved out small depressions, which soon trapped river debris further accelerating erosion. The hollows grew over time and deepened to cylindrical potholes up to several meters deep.
The potholes were named after an unsuccessful gold prospector named Tom Bourke who discovered signs of alluvial gold in the canyon in the late 1880s. He quickly staked a claim and began to pan for gold. Unfortunately for him, Bourke never stuck gold, although hundreds of others found riches just south of where he predicted the presence of the precious metal. Bourke’s gold mine proved to be completely fruitless but his legacy lives on at Bourke’s Luck Potholes. Ironically, some tourists treat Bourke's Luck Potholes as a “wishing well” and many have dropped coins into the potholes.
Bourke’s Luck Potholes in Mpumalanga province are a series of natural geological formations that seem nearer to art than nature. Formed by centuries of water flowing through the landscape, this natural attraction is made up of inter-connected pools, interlaced with sandstone outcrops.
The potholes occur where the Treur River joins the Blyde River at the start of the Blyde River Canyon. In a continuing and centuries-old spectacle, the force of the water in these two rivers, combined with the particles of sand and rock that the rivers' transport, wears cylindrical potholes into the sandstone bedrock.
Over time, some of these potholes merge and new ones form, creating an intricate landscape of deep depressions and outcrops of resistant rock.
Visitors can view the potholes from a number of vantage points and bridges that criss-cross some of the most beautiful formations. Not only are the shapes of the formations spectacular, but the sandstone is layered and coloured in shades of amber, taupe, ochre and brown, so depending on the soil content of the water, the river levels and the time of day, the landscape constantly changes.
These natural sculptures are named after a prospector, Tom Bourke, who hoped to find gold at this site. He was unsuccessful, but other prospectors had more luck in the area.
The Panorama Route, which encompasses Bourke's Luck Potholes as well as the dramatic vistas, waterfalls, hiking trails, historic sites and lush vegetation between the towns of Graskop and Ohrigstad, has many historic sites and natural attractions to explore.
A small visitors center is located nearby that provides information about the canyon’s origins and the flora and fauna found in the area. From there, the viewing point for these potholes is 700 meters away.
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