Tswaing Meteorite Crater

Tswaing Crater, 40 km north of Pretoria, is a bowl-shaped crater 1.13km in diameter and 100 metres deep that was formed by a stone meteorite 220 000 years ago. It exploded and vaporized on impact.

Tswaing means Place of Salt in Tswana, which refers to the salty lake found at the bottom of the crater. Evidence has been found that as far back as the Middle Stone Age, local hunter-gatherers used the lake as a source of salt. Between 800 and 200 years ago, Sotho and Tswana speaking people also extracted salt from this lake by a process that involved filtering, boiling and evaporating the lake water.

From 1922 to 1956, the lake was commercially exploited for salt and soda ash by the company SA Alkali Ltd. The ruins of the reduction works as well as some residences occupied by reduction workers can still be seen around the crater.

The Tswaing Meteorite Crater falls within a 2000 ha conservation area which boasts a wide variety of birds and trees, as well as a wetland system.

A 7.5km hiking trail runs around the rim of the crater and then descends down to the lake. The 2 to 3 hour trail is popular among hikers and offers braai and picnic facilities once the hike is finished. There is also a visitors centre with a small museum.

The Tswaing Meteorite Crater is on the list for consideration as a World Heritage Site.

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