The 13 000 ha reserve is located in the steep mountain grassland of the southern Drakensberg, on the Lesotho border. It was proclaimed as a protected area in 1976, and forms an important part of the upper catchment of the Kinira river, which feeds the greater Umzimvubu basin.
The reserve is drained by the perennial Lebelle and Jordan rivers. Rainfall is in the region of 750mm per annum, and the area has verdant green summers and snowy winters.
TOPOGRAPHY & CLIMATE
The area lies in rugged mountainous terrain, dropping-off steeply from the Maluti/Drakensberg Escarpment. It is mainly underlain by basaltic lavas of the Drakensberg Group of the Karoo Super group. In the eastern lowlands around 1600m, fingers of fine grained sandstones of the Clarens Formation are exposed, along with Quaternary alluvium, Molteno sandstones and mudstones, with Elliot mudstones extending westwards in to the basalt. (Lechmere-Oertel, 2006).
The steep gradients and shallow soils of the Drakensberg result in almost half of the rainfall leaving the area as run-off (MDTP, 2008). If the soils are bound by intact indigenous vegetation, the surface flow is rapidly absorbed, and controlled gradual water yield will be released throughout the year. Under these ideal conditions, high quality sediment-free water will reach streams. This situation is demonstrated by the presence of alpine wetlands in the upper reaches of the reserve, and the high water quality captured in the Lebelle stream weir which supplies the Thaba Chicha bulk regional water supply to villages adjacent to the reserve.
Average minimum temperatures in summer range between 6 and 12ºC. Daytime summer temperatures range between 20 and 28ºC. Winters are cold with night temperatures frequently dropping below OºC and a high frequency of frost nights, with occasional snow and ice creating a challenging climatic environment. Maximum winter temperature rarely goes above 18ºC. Annual rainfall is in the region of 750mm, occurring mainly in the summer months, with February rainfall levels reaching 125 mm. Some parts of the escarpment have recorded 1800mm per annum (MDTP, 2006), resulting in extreme run-off events. This indicates high run-off capacity during concentrated periods, resulting in increased erosion and topsoil loss where groundcover is insufficient. Precipitation also occurs in the form of mist and snow.