Situated 35 km from Groblershoop on a gravel road, the Boegoeberg Dam was formed when a 10m high weir was constructed in 1929. The construction formed part of an extensive economic development plan to uplift the poor white Afrikaners at the time. The name of the dam derives from the Boegoe plant that grows wild in the surrounding hills. The plant was widely used in traditional medicine. The holiday resort at the dam is like a green oasis in the desert and provides for camping, angling, and provides accommodation in six chalets. The water mass provides excellent opportunities for skiing, canoeing and sailing. The Boegoeberg Dam was completed in 1933 and is the third largest dam in the Orange River.
For many years there had been plans for a dam of one or other description near the site of the present day Boegoeberg Dam but these had either been too expensive or too small or too…… Nineteen Twenty-nine ushered in the great depression throughout the world and South Africa did not escape the rigours of this financial crisis. The Diamond mining and agricultural sectors were worst hit and the farmers went in too particularly bad times. Prices were depressed and even then, most people did not have the money to buy. And as if this was not bad enough the 1930’s brought with it the worst drought of the twentieth century. Poverty amongst Afrikaners increased alarmingly and the closure of several of De Beers’ mines aggravated the situation further. As this problem came shortly after the Anglo-Boer war, much of the countryside had not yet recovered from the scorched-earth policy of the British forces which had enabled them to bring the Boers to their knees. As this was largely a Afrikaner problem, when Hertzog took over the reins of government in 1924, he began to investigate possible solutions. One of the recommendations of an earlier commission of enquiry was, amongst others, the creation of settlements.
By March 1929, the government decided to tackle the Boegoeberg Dam and canal project as part of its drought alleviation scheme. The Main aim was to provide work for whites who were suffering as a result of the drought and the financial pressures. The funds came from the department of Labour but the building fell under the department of Water Affairs (then known as the department Irrigation). The dam and the canal had their own teams of engineers and labour. The building of the dam was under the control of Mr. D F Kokot with its construction camp at the dam-site on the farm Seekoebaart. The canal construction was under the control of Mr. Aslaksen with its camp at Sterham (later re-named Groblershoop in honour of Mr Piet Grobler, Minister of Labour).
A hoard of people descended on Boegoeberg to help with the construction. Many were ex-diamond miners and others who had been hit by the depression. At first only men were used as Kokot’s rule was: No liquor and no women! The woman descendants of the Voortrekkers were not intimidated by Kokot and one after the other they also took their places in the work teams. They made places to stay by pulling sacks over poles (sakkaias). Eventually the construction teams completed units of wood and iron for the married men and their wives whilst the single men continued to stay in tents in the so-called ram camp. The average wage for workers was 7s-6d per day (about 75cents) and with the most on piece work, one had to work hard to better that. All the work was done by whites with pick and shovel and wheelbarrows with the help of some donkeys. The odd coloured person that arrived on site worked cutting wood for a household for a plate of food. Even the children carried stones for the lining of the canal for a sixpence a day to boost the family’s income.
The railway station for the project was Draghoender, some 64 kilometres away and the transport was done by donkey cart. Later private lorries began to transport supplies to the dam and they preferred Kleinbegin station as it was easier to load.
The coffer-dam was built of sand bags carried on men’s backs along a rickety scaffold over the water of the river. When each fifty yards (± 50 meters) of the coffer dam had been packed, work would begin on excavations for the foundations of the wall. In some places the foundations are deeper than what the wall is high. All work was done by hand and even the holes for explosives was drilled by hand. Concrete was mixed on site and brought to the point along the wall where it was needed by cocopans.
By 1932 the dam was at such a stage of completion that the first water could be allowed to flow into the canal. There was no great opening ceremony maybe because the settlement farmers were not invited (they were looked down upon by many) or perhaps they were just too busy battling to make ends meet. The top of the wall is 885,7 meter above sea-level and 13,7m above the lowermost foundation. The mass concrete wall took 55045m³ of concrete to construct and the total of the dam and its construction camp was £215 000(sterling)