Golden Gate Highlands Park
Earth : Africa : Southern Africa : South Africa : Free State : Thabo Mofutsanyana : Golden Gate Highlands Park
"Golden Gate" refers to the sandstone cliffs that are found on either side of the valley at the Golden Gate dam. In 1875, a farmer called J.N.R. van Reenen and his wife stopped here as they travelled to their new farm in Vuurland. He named the location "Golden Gate" when he saw the last rays of the setting sun fall on the cliffs.
In 1963, 47.92 square kilometres (11,840 acres) were proclaimed as a national park, specifically to preserve the scenic beauty of the area. In 1981 the park was enlarged to 62.41 km² (15,420 acres) and in 1988 it was enlarged to 116.33 km² (28,746 acres). In 2004 it was announced that the park would be joined with the neighbouring QwaQwa National Park. The amalgamation of QwaQwa National Park was completed in 2007, increasing the park's area to 340 km² (84,016 acres).
Flora and fauna
The park is located in the eastern highveld region of South Africa, and experiences a dry sunny climate from June to August. It has showers, hails and thunderstorms between October and April. It has thick snowfalls in the winter. The park has a relatively high rainfall of 800 mm (30 inches) per year.
The park is 320 km (200 mi) from Johannesburg and is close to the villages of Clarens and Kestell, in the upper regions of the Little Caledon River. The park is situated in the Rooiberge of the eastern Free State, in the foothills of the Maluti Mountains. The Caledon River forms the southern boundary of the park as well as the border between the Free State and Lesotho. The highest peak in the park (and also in the Free State) is Ribbokkop at 2,829 m (9,281 ft).