Barkly West is situated on the north bank of the Vaal River, west of Kimberley.
The discovery of diamonds at Klipdrift on the Vaal River in 1869 drew thousands of prospectors. Briefly, the Klipdrift Diggers’ Republic was declared (the town assuming the name Parkerton after President Stafford Parker), before colonial rule was extended here. It became, with Kimberley, one of the main towns in the Crown Colony of Griqualand West and was renamed Barkly West.
During the Anglo-Boer War the town was occupied by Boer forces and temporarily went by the name Nieuw Boshof.
Attractions in Barkly West include:
– Surrounding the town, Rekaofela Resort, Oribi Game Reserve and Vaalbos National Park showcase the beautiful fauna and flora of the region, including archeological sites.
– Nefi Meyer has converted the original pump house on the riverbank into a world-famous pub and restaurant. They also offer visitors an unforgettable three-hour tour with a river cruiser.
– There are a few game farms surrounding Barkly West. Good Hope and Mattanu are both open for day visits, just keep in mind that bookings are essential.
– Canteen Kopje is the site of early diamond diggings which also exposed a major archaeological occurrence of stratified Acheulean facies. These are subject to a current collaborative research venture by the University of Southampton, the University of the Witwatersrand and the McGregor Museum in Kimberley.
– Barkly West Museum situated in the Toll House at the Barkly Bridge. The iron Barkly Bridge, the first over the Vaal River, was transported in sections from the United Kingdom (by sea, rail and, over the last more than 100 km by ox wagon) and erected across the Vaal in 1885.
Shops in Kimberley and Barkly West closed for the occasion when the bridge was opened. A new bridge was built alongside in the 1970s. The toll house erected to recover revenues from those using the old bridge now serves as a museum, opened in 2000.
– The Nooitgedacht Glacial Pavements, upstream along the Vaal River between Barkly West and Kimberley, with evidence of the Dwyka glaciation some 300 million years ago. Much later – within the last 1500 years or so – the scoured rocks were used by Later Stone Age people as panels for rock engravings.
– Alluvial Diamond Diggings – Licensed prospectors still sift the sand and gravel of the Vaal River for ever-elusive diamonds. Guided tours only.
– Characterized by breakwaters where diggers still labor, the Vaal river has many pools, rapids, waterfalls and features with odd names, eg Gong Gong, Beaumont’s Folly and Bosman’s Fortune.
– St Mary’s Anglican Church, built in 1871, was the first church on the diamond fields.
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