Original Research

Sandstone geomorphology of the Golden Gate Highlands National Park, South Africa, in a global context

Stefan W. Grab, Andrew S. Goudie, Heather A. Viles, Nicola Webb
Koedoe | Vol 53, No 1 | a985 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/koedoe.v53i1.985 | © 2011 Stefan W. Grab, Andrew S. Goudie, Heather A. Viles, Nicola Webb | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 04 January 2010 | Published: 11 March 2011

About the author(s)

Stefan W. Grab, University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa
Andrew S. Goudie, University of the Witwatersrand
Heather A. Viles, University of the Witwatersrand
Nicola Webb, University of the Witwatersrand


The Golden Gate Highlands National Park (GGHNP) is well known for its impressive sandstone formations. While previous geoscience research in the park has focused on geology, palaeontology, slope forms and the prominent lichen weathering, remarkably little has been written on the diversity and possible origins of sandstone phenomena in the region. The objectives of this study were (1) to present a geomorphological map of prominent and interesting landforms for particular portions of the park and (2) to document the variety of macro- and microscale sandstone formations observed. During field work, we undertook global positioning system measurements to map landforms and, in addition, measured the dimensions of several landform types. A Schmidt hammer was used to conduct rock hardness tests at a variety of localities and lithologies for comparative purposes. We indentified and mapped 27 macro- and microscale sandstone landforms, of which 17 are described in detail. It is demonstrated that for the most part, the landforms are a likely product of surface lithological reactions to a regional climate characterised by pronounced multitemporal temperature and moisture shifts, recently and in the past. However, many of the geomorphological processes producing landforms are controlled by microclimates set up by factors such as macro- and microtopography.

Conservation implications: The GGHNP is best known for its geological, geomorphological and palaeontological heritage. This paper highlights the diversity of sandstone geomorphological phenomena, many of them rare and ‘unique’ to the region. Not only are these landforms of aesthetic interest to tourists, but they also provide microhabitats for biota. Thus, conservation of biota requires associated conservation of geo-environments where they are established.


Sandstone formations, geomorphology, mapping, identification and description


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