Brandvlei is in the Upper Karoo (Bo-Karoo), or Bushmanland, or Thirst Land (Dorsland), and should not be confused with the Brandvlei south of Worcester in the Western Cape.
Brandvlei is named after a nomadic farmer with the surname Brand, affectionately known as Ou Brand (Old Brand). He camped at this spot at the Sakrivier, a dry river bed, which only intermittently has water after good rains - and which typically result in flash floods. The Afrikaans word vlei means marsh, which is a misnomer as there is hardly ever water in this "marsh".
The larger region is known as the The Thirstland (in Afrikaans: Dorsland), and also as Bushmanland. This area is relatively flat, and interspersed with huge salt pans.
Photo: courtesy www.culturalguiding.com
Like all South African settlements, this one is dominated by a large Dutch Reformed Church, coated in blinding white and built in the Neo-Gothic style. Opposite the church is a building with a very long verandah with 100 wooden columns.
San Rock Carvings can be viewed on the farms Lekkerlê and Kans.
The following salt pans are found in the Brandvlei area.
Grootvloer is north of Brandvlei and a very large salt pan, depending on how it is measured, as long as 60Km and as wide as 30Km.
Verneukpan lies northeast of Brandvlei between Swartkop and Diemansput.
The pan became famous in 1929 when Captain (later Sir) Malcolm Campbell (1885 - 1948) attempted to break world land-speed record. He tried to reach 300 miles per hour (482.8 Km/h).
Malcolm Campbell (1885 - 1948)
The car used was a Napier-Arrol-Astor Bluebird. His mean speed for the measured mile was 218.45 mph (351.56 Km/h)
Campbell did eventually exceed 300 miles per hour reaching 301.337 mph, but not in South Africa.
Today Verneukpan is used by kite-surfers, an extreme sport using wind buggies. These bicycle-like vehicles with a sail attached to them. Speeds of up to 70Km per hour are reached.
Verdorskolk is to the west of Grootvloer.
There are several salt pans to the west and northwest of Brandvlei: Rietfontein se Pan, Commissioner's Salt Pan, Dwagga Salt Pan, Bitterputs se Pan, Konnes se Pan.
The following pans can be found south of Brandvlei: Riet se Vloer, Blomberg se Vloer, Soutputs se Vloer, Swartkolkvloer, Voëlvlei se Vloer.
Also see other pans listed under
During the Miocene period, this area was sub-tropical. Many fossils have been found in the area attesting to this.
Brandvlei is named after a nomadic farmer with the surname Brand, affectionately known as Ou Brand (Old Brand), who roamed the area in the 1800s. Brandvlei became a municipality in 1962.
After about 1910 farmers in this area used an irrigation method used for thousands of years by the Egyptians. The area is very flat, and water does not run away easily. So rainwater is "dammed" up and allowed to sink into the soil. In Afrikaans this method is known as a saaidam (or seedling dam). This moisture is enough for crop to live on once the rains have gone. On the long run this method is not sustainable, as evaporating water leaves behind salt and other minerals. This method is no longer used.
There is very little vegetation in this region, mostly very low shrubs and yellow grass among a rocky desert kind of landscape.
If you travel northwest from Brandvlei, you will pass through a huge landscape of nothingness for the next 200Km and more.
In seasons when rain falls and the pans contain water, many birds flock to the pans. Raining season is between November and March.
Temperature above 40°C is not uncommon.