Kanoneiland (or “Cannon Island”) is the largest island in the Orange River and the largest inhabited island in South Africa. It is 14km long and 3km at it widest point, covering an area of 2553 hectares where the fertile alluvial soil and ready waters of the river are used for the cultivation of sultana grapes, lucerne, pecan nuts and even cotton.
The island was once a stronghold of the nomadic Koranna tribe led by Klaas Pofadder who used the thick cover of the indigenous bush as a hide out, from whence they conducted cattle and sheep rustling sorties on horse back in the surrounding areas.
From 1868 (the Second Northern Frontier War) many skirmishes took place between the colonial forces and the island renegades, coming to a head in 1879.
The story goes that in 1879, the Cape Artillery Corps had driven the Korannas back to the island, which they proceeded to bombard with cannon fire. Not to be outdone, Pofadder fashioned a homemade cannon out of the trunk of a large quiver tree, loaded it with gunpowder and pieces of stones and scrap and fired it across the stream. When the smoke cleared, six of his men lay dead, killed by their own gun. The cannon used by the Cape Field Artillery can still be seen in front of the old school building in the town.
The cultivation of Kanoneiland dates back to 1928, when 52 settler families started to clear the land for farming. Initially, they relied on a raft to cross the stream to the mainland. Over time, this was replaced with a regular ferry service. In 1940, the island was connected to the southern bank of the river with a single lane bridge. In 1954, a second bridge to the northern bank was completed, finally connecting the island to both sides of the river.
Today, around 1 374 hectares of this rich land is intensively cultivated, with virtually every available inch of soil under irrigation.
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