Free State Tourist AttractionsThe Vredefort Dome
The Vredefort Dome is the oldest and largest meteorite impact site (Asrobleme) in the world. Formed an estimated 2000 million years ago when a gigantic meteorite (larger than Table Mountain) hit the earth close to where Vredefort is today.
Where? Just outside Parys in the Free State.
How? Call +27 (0)18 299-5371
The force of the impact opened up a crater, which is still visible, and is about 40km in diameter. When visiting the area you will notice small hills in a large dome shape with beautiful valleys between them.
Evidence has been found by geologists that the cause of this upliftment was an extreme impact event, caused by an asteroid some 10 kilometres in diameter. The ring of hills we see now are the eroded remains of a dome created by the rebound of the rock below the impact site after the asteroid hit. The original crater, now eroded away, is estimated to have been 250 - 300 kilometres in diameter. Some 70 cubic kilometres of rock would have been vaporised in the impact.
The Vredefort structure is currently regarded the biggest and oldest clearly visible impact structure on Earth. It just beats the Sudbury impact structure in Canada for this ranking. The Sudbury structure is some 200 km in diameter and is estimated to be 1.85 billion years old.
Within the ring of hills at Vredefort is found granitic gneiss rock. The force of the impact produced deep fractures in the underlying rock. Rock melted by the impact flowed down into the cracks, producing what are now exposed as ridges of hard dark rock - the granophyre dykes. This contrasts with normal geological dykes, where molten rock from deeper in the earth has flowed upwards through cracks.
Many activities can be enjoyed in the area. From river rafting, river tubing, abseiling, horse riding, mountain biking, archery or walking. Or visits to Anglo Boer War sites, the the largest wild olive forest in South Africa at Venterskroon, or a visit to a distillery where traditional South African "witblits" (extremely strong spirits) is made.
For additional information see Vredefort Dome - A World Heritage Site.