Top 8 Interesting Fish River Canyon Facts

One of the most fascinating canyons in the world can be found in the southwestern part of Africa.

In this post, you’ll discover the ultimate list of interesting Fish River Canyon facts.

1. The canyon is located in the south of Namibia

The Fish River Canyon is an enormous canyon located in the southern part of Namibia, a country located in the southern part of Africa. It’s locally known as the “Visrivier Canyon” or “Visrivier Kuil.”

There aren’t any large towns in the area but there’s a holiday resort nearby called ǀAi-ǀAis, situated in the ǁKaras Region which encompasses the southern part of Namibia.

About 70 kilometers (45 miles) to the north of ǀAi-ǀAis there’s a campsite referred to as “Hobas” which is the closest you can get before accessing the canyon.

The huge canyon is part of the ǀAi-ǀAis/Richtersveld Transfrontier Park which covers an area of 6,045 square kilometers (2,334 square miles) and is located on the border of South Africa and Namibia.

Fish River Canyon Namibia
The immense canyon / Pixabay

2. It’s the largest canyon in Africa

One of the most remarkable Fish River Canyon facts is that it’s the largest canyon in all of Africa. The main ravine is about 160 kilometers (100 miles) long and at some points up to 27 kilometers (16 miles) wide.

The canyon covers a total area of 5,900 square kilometers (2,300 square miles) and is at some points up to 550 meters (1,804 feet) deep!

This fascinating feat of nature obviously provides some of the most amazing views imaginable!

Fish River canyon facts
Amazing view of the canyon / Thomas Schoch /

3. An event 650 million years ago set things in motion

The canyon couldn’t have been formed without an event that happened approximately 650 million years ago. around this time tectonic plate movements created a lower area that formed the Upper Canyon.

This canyon was further deepened during the so-called “Late Paleozoic icehouse” or “Karoo Ice Age” which happened between 360 and 260 million years ago.

To give some reference, the process to create one of the most famous canyons in the world, the Grand Canyon in Arizona, started between 80 and 70 million years ago.

Yes, this immense canyon wasn’t created overnight, that’s for sure!

Bottom of fish river canyon
Bottom of the canyon / Wiki Commons

4. It was formed by the longest river in Namibia

The Fish River Canyon as it appears today was formed by another crucial event in its history. Around 60 million years ago, the continents of South America and Africa separated due to continental drift.

This made the African content rise in elevation which allowed the Fish River to speed up the erosion process of the canyon. This created the twisting Lower Canyon as the river cut through the hard gneiss metamorphic rocks.

The Fish River, after which the canyon was named, is the longest interior river in Namibia with a total length of 650 kilometers (400 miles). This is a seasonal river as it can completely dry up in the dry winter months.

This important river eventually drains into the Orange River near the border with South Africa, before releasing into the Atlantic Ocean about 100 kilometers (60 miles) further.

Fish river canon aerial view
Aerial view of the river / Hp Baumeler /

5. Both the upper and lower canyon are national monuments

The canyon is managed by the Namibian Ministry of Environment and Tourism. This is because it’s one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, only second to the fascinating Namib Desert.

This desert is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is officially called the “Namib Sand Sea.” It features amazing and easily recognizable salt and clay pans.

The Fish River Canyon is without a doubt equally impressive and both the Upper and Lower Canyons have been designated as a national monument of Namibia since the year 1962.

Fish river canyoin upper and lower canyon
Upper and Lower canyon / Pixabay

6. It features one of the most popular hiking trails in southern Africa

The main way to discover this wonderful canyon is to follow the established “Fish River Canyon Hiking Trail.” This is considered to be one of the most popular hiking trails in Southern Africa and pretty much provides the ultimate hiking experience!

It brings visitors from all over the world to the Fish River after a short descent of just 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) from the Hobas camping site. After this, it follows the river for a total distance of 88 kilometers (54 miles) through rugged terrain.

The hiking trail features some footpaths but has a lot of areas without as well. It takes about 5 days to complete the trail and without amenities, hikers get the complete all-nature experience!

Fish River canyon hiking
Hikers in the canyon / RudiBosbouer /

7. Hiking isn’t possible throughout the year

The area is prone to heavy showers which result in canyon flooding. Combined with extremely hot temperatures of anywhere between 48 °C in the day and 30 °C at night, it’s not always possible to hike.

That’s why hiking permits are only issued between May 1 and September 15 of every year!

FIsh river canyon river crossing
River crossing in the canyon / Wiki Commons

8. It’s the setting of an extremely harsh Ultra Marathon

One of the most amazing Fish River Canyon facts is that it’s the setting of one of the toughest sporting events in the world. The yearly Ultra Marathon takes contestants over a distance of 100 kilometers (62 miles), while the Lite version has a total distance of 65 kilometers (40 miles).

It’s not easy to call this a Lite version, though, because even though the marathon follows most parts of the hiking trail, without solid footpaths, it’s one of the most technical races in the world.

Apart from battling the rugged terrain full of rocks, they also have to deal with the extreme heat in the open sun, not an easy task at all!

Still, some men can complete the Ultra Marathon in just over 8 hours and the Lite Marathon in just over 5 hours, an amazing achievement!

Contestant in Fish river canyon race
Contestant in the race / RudiBosbouer /