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Emmarentia Dam - Johannesburg

emmarentia dam johannesburgReputed to be the best dog walk in Johannesburg, Emmarentia Dam lies next to the Botanic Gardens in Emmarentia, north of Johannesburg just 6km from Johannesburg’s city centre. Tranquil lawns in which families can meet and play, walkways peppered with wooden benches placed strategically to afford moments of stillness and reflection, make this a sprawling and popular park for escapes from city living.

There are several dams that make up Emmarentia Dam, despite its allusion to the singular, where dogs happily swim and splash, whilst the main dam is very actively used by a canoe club for training, and various canoeists and windsurfers enjoy the water throughout the year. Emmarentia dam is certainly one of the city’s most tranquil spots and the setting amongst water and trees is attractive to many weekend visitors who picnic and braai on the grassed lawns. There are woodland and natural grass areas and a tea room that does first-rate scones.

The main park of Emmarentia Dam was called Jan van Riebeeck Park, founded in 1952 to mark 300 years since the first Dutch settlers arrived at the Cape, whilst the other two smallish dams were constructed to control flood waters. The farm “Braamfontein” was owned by the family Geldenhuys, who contracted landless Boers to build the main dam after the South African War. The dam was named after Louw Geldenhys’s wife, Emmarentia. The gardens were founded around this time too, so the 30 000 trees – including exotics such as oaks, redwoods and birches and at least 20 000 indigenous specimens – are well established.

In the northern part of the park, the formal gardens feature terraced ponds and fountains, and 4 500 rose bushes make for an awesome summer display in the Shakespearean garden. The herb garden contains plants used as medicinal remedies and those with culinary and cosmetic uses. The succulent garden, which may be visited only by appointment, is planted with more than 2 500 species. Indigenous vegetation is encouraged in the reed beds and Highveld grassland areas. In the north-east of the garden, the dam is used for water sports such as canoeing and sailing small boats. There are club facilities on the eastern embankment. Birdlife includes geese, dabchicks, moorhens and other waterfowl.

Reed beds have established themselves around the dams and attract a wide variety of birds, including bishops and weavers. The banks of the dam are also the site of the annual summer sunset concerts that see a variety of local and international musicians team up to make music for people to enjoy thoroughly in one of Johannesburg’s best loved venues. It is common to see wedding parties posing for photographs in the formal gardens and in the chapel garden. Summer Sunset Concerts have proven hugely popular. The small café near the main entrance on Olifants Road serves light meals and refreshments but home-packed picnic baskets are welcome.



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