The town of Rietbron has its origins in a patch of reeds where it was observed that there was a permanent damp spot in the soil. A well was dug and a strong, sustainable underground water source was discovered. Thus the village was born with the Afrikaans name derived directly from the water source in the patch of reeds, a direct translation of the name Rietbron. Water from the source flowed into Paddadam, or Frog dam, from which many farmlands and orchards were irrigated.
Rietbron lies in the heart of the Karoo, almost halfway between Beaufort West and Willowmore. There are a number of roads that lead into Rietbron and none of them are main roads and all of them are gravel. It is the “Karoo dorp” of everyone’s imagination, Unlike most parts of the Karoo the landscape around the village is completely flat and it almost seems that you can see the curvature of the Earth as you approach the village on the gravel road that snakes across the “vlaktes” or the flats from Beaufort West.
Established in 1910 due to the surrounding farming community’s need for a church, school and other social facilities, over 100 years later Rietbron is still a settlement that provides to the most basic needs of its community. The heart of the town is still the organisations that exist here namely the Church, the School, the Agricultural Association, the Womans’ Club and the Tennis Club.
This is farming country. A vibrant mohair industry stretches from here to Willowmore and to Jansenville in the east. Given an average rainfall of less than 200mm a year, most of the farming involving Angora goats as well as Merino and Dorper sheep, is done through purposeful breeding and selection. Mohair and Karoo lamb are synonymous with Rietbron.
In 1973 uranium was discovered in the area, seen from an airplane on the rocks of a rock garden on the farm Ryskuil. Options were taken on several farms in the district and in 1977, Esko Minerals purchased Ryskuil. A test shaft was sunk, a village was laid out and an airfield was built. But in 1984, Esko discontinued its search for uranium because the price of uranium had declined by 50%. Since 2004 some prospecting has been done on Ryskuil and several other farms in the area.
The Rietbron Dutch Reformed Church was built in 1953 after a fire destroyed the original building. It is unique in that it boasts the only Springbok weather vane to grace a church steeple in South Africa.
The town museum is located in the Afrikaanse Christelike Vroue Vereeniging hall (Afrikaans Christian Women’s Association), originally built in 1927, and is filled with a collection donated by the local community and includes a variety of antique farming equipment.
The village hosts an annual sporting festival in aid of the local primary school that is attended by loyal “Rietbronners’ from all over South Africa.
Because Rietbron is truly ‘in the middle of nowhere”, it has become a firm favourite with weekenders yearning for an escape to a place where peace and tranquility abound.
The best time to visit is during the change of seasons – March/April, September/October to avoid excessive heat or cold. Please note there are no ATMs or banks in Rietbron, nor are there any fuel stations.