About Dams on Table Mountain

There are five dams on top of the table top, accessible via a number of hikes up the mountain. The dams - The Woodhead, Hely-Hutchinson, De Villiers, Alexandria and Victoria - are all on the mountain’s back table, the first of which was built as early as 1890, as the demand for water in the city increased.

Did you know? The water in the dams is untreated and no swimming is allowed.

Up until the 1880s all who lived in Cape Town were dependent on one stream of water (Disa River) that flowed off the mountain. With the increased demand for water engineers of the city built a tunnel through the Twelve Apostles that allowed them to catch water from the Disa River and transport it via a huge duct, known today as the ‘pipe track’, right to a central repository - the Molteno Reservoir, just above De Waal Park in Oranjezicht.

But the city’s demands easily outstripped the supply from this viaduct and reservoir and before long engineers had to come up with another plan. And so they dammed the Disa River.

Woodhead Reservoir, Table Mountain’s first dam, was a lot of hard work involving a series of porters who literally carried all the building materials for the dam walls up Kasteelpoort Ravine, aided a little later, as the lunacy of the venture became clear, by a steam-driven cable car.

Hely-Hutchinson soon followed as, despite Woodhead Dam’s completion in 1897, demand still outstripped supply. It’s a particularly well-known dam because of the pretty white, sandy beach on its eastern shoreline (reached via Skeleton Gorge).

At more-or-less the same time, the southern suburbs headed up the mountain to build their own dams close to the overseer’s cottage - Victoria, Alexandra and De Villiers, completed by 1907.

The pretty dams contribute only 5% of the city’s water. Most of Cape Town’s water comes from the Steenbras, Berg River and Theewaterskloof dams, east of the city.

Best way up to explore the dams: starting at Constantia Nek along the Bridal path to the top.

Need to Know

WhereThe Five Dams atop Table Mountain, on Table Mountain, Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa

WhenBest during daylight hours.

OvernightStay in Cape Town Accommodation, Western Cape


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