A Natural Wonder
The Zambezi River
The Victoria Falls
Ecology of the Victoria Falls
Formation of the Victoria Falls
People of the Victoria Falls
Enter the Ndebele
Discovery of the Victoria Falls
In Livingstone's Footsteps
Development of the Rhodesias
Development of the Railway
Development of Tourism
Development of Victoria Falls Town
Recent History
Further Information
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To The Victoria Falls

The Zambezi River

The Lower Zambezi

Formerly the site of dangerous rapids running through what was known as the Kebrabassa or Kebra Bassa Gorge, the lake was created in 1974 by the construction of the Cahora Bassa Dam, and provides hydroelectric power to South Africa.

From Cahora Bassa to the Indian Ocean, 650 km, the river is shallow in many places during the dry season, as the river enters a broad valley and spreads out over a large area. Only at one point, the Lupata Gorge, 320 km from its mouth, is the river confined between high hills. Here it is scarcely 200 metres wide. Elsewhere it is from 5 to 8 km wide, flowing gently in many streams.

The river bed is sandy, and the banks are low and reed-fringed. At places, however, and especially in the rainy season, the streams unite into one broad fast-flowing river. On approaching the ocean the Zambezi splits up into a number of branches and forms a wide delta. Each of the four principal mouths; the Milambe, Kongone, Luabo and Timbwe, is obstructed by a large sand-bar delta before eventually reaching its journeys end, escaping into the Indian Ocean

The huge Zambezi delta reaches 100km inland and stretches over 120 km of ocean frontage, from Quelimane in the north to the Melambe mouth in the south and covering an area of about 8,000 square kilometres with a floodplain of multiple channels, meanders, oxbow lakes and marsh.

The modern river empties into the Indian Ocean between Beira and Quelimane, but abandoned channels of the delta are located along the entire 290 km distance between these two cities.

Due to the shallow sloping continental shelf, this area of the coastline has the highest tidal range on the continent (at 6.4 m), and tides can reach 40–50 km inland.

Low-lying ridges, extending parallel to the coast, up to 30 km inland, mark past strandlines associated with former higher sea-level levels (Main, 1990).

The mouth of the Zambezi River was long known to Arab traders whole utilized the east coast of Africa (see Early Europeans section). Later, Portuguese explorers would stake their claim to these lands, establishing forts and trading posts along the coast and utilizing the Lower Zambezi as an access route into the interior in territory later to become independent Mozambique.

The rich alluvial soils along the river have long been utilized for intensive agriculture.

On the south bank is the large Marromeu Game Reserve, coastally fringed by extensive mangroves and low-lying dune forest. Once famous for its large herds of buffalo (Syncerus caffer) before wildlife was severely depleted during the hostilities prior to and immediately after Mozambique independence. Recovery is slow.

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Coppinger M & Williams J (1991) Zambezi - River of Africa. Struik, Cape Town.

Gupta, A (2007) [editor] Large Rivers: Geomorphology and Management John Wiley and Sons, England.

MacDonald J R (1955) Zambesi River. MacMillan & Co Ltd, London.

F B Macrae (1938) Some notes on part of the Gwembe Valley In Northern Rhodesia. The Geographical Journal, Vol. 91, No. 5, May, 1938

Main, Michael (1990) Zambezi – Journey of a River, Southern Book Publishers.

Teede, Jan & Fiona (1990) The Zambezi - River of the Gods Andre Deutsch Ltd, London

Life and Death at the Old Drift, Victoria Falls 1898-1905

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'To The Victoria Falls' aims to bring you the wonder of the Victoria Falls through a look at its natural and human history.

This website has been developed using information researched from a wide variety of sources, including books, magazines and websites etc too numerous to mention or credit individually, although many key references are identified on our References page. Many of the images contained in this website have been sourced from old photographic postcards and publications and no infringement of copyright is intended. We warmly welcome any donations of photographs or information to this website.

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