This fertile valley was originally a lake. The soil is mainly alluvial and agricultural crops are grown 1 km on either side of the rivers (Nel’s and Gamka – lion in Khoi).
Early writings prove that the Khoi called Kannaland “the valley with no grass”. Evidence of early San and Khoi peoples are evident in numerous rock paintings found in the surrounding mountains. In 1821, land was granted to JJ and MC Calitz who named it Buffelsvlei. This name was derived from the local vegetation and animals found here.
In 1853, the Calitz’s donated land for a church and school to be built, as Oudtshoorn proved to be too far to travel for their monthly “Nagmaal”.
In 1910, the population was 4000 and a larger church and school were needed. Both buildings were completed in 1912. The church has a neo-Byzantine style with a Marseilles roof. It is a good example of the sandstone architecture of the ostrich-era in the Klein Karoo. It was declared a national monument in 1991.
Also in 1912, building commenced on the old Standard Bank building, presently housing the museum, and the Nel’s river dam. This dam wall was the first of many to be built in South Africa, using cement.
Subsequent drought, the great flu epidemic, and the collapse of the ostrich feather industry, played havoc amongst the community.
New hope however, came to Calitzdorp in the form of a railway line (in 1924) and electrification (in 1937), as well as the construction of the first cement road between Calitzdorp and Oudtshoorn (also a first for South Africa). The new R62 was built in 1978. Today, this Klein Karoo thriving community is known as the “Port Wine Capital of South Africa”, the “Fruit Basket of Kannaland”, and the “Heart of the Klein Karoo”.