The Howick Falls (Zulu – kwaNogqaza – “the place of the tall one”) where the Umgeni River (Mgeni) plunges 95m down dolomite cliffs into the gorge, and surrounding area was proclaimed a national monument in 1951. During the 1850s the traffic between Durban and the interior of Natal and Transvaal, through the Karkloof valley, increased to such an extent that a ford became imperative: This was made just above the waterfall and that same year a village was established and named for Viscount Howick, later Earl Grey, who was the British Colonial Secretary [1846 – 1852].
The ford, just above the falls as well as a timber bridge that was constructed in 1872, claimed the lives of travellers during periodic floods. In 1851 the young son of the Innkeeper was swept over the falls as he was trying to take a traveller’s horse across the river. A cairn next to the pool at the bottom of the falls marks the boy’s grave. During 1903 the bridge was replaced with a more secure structure as the old one was also swept over the falls.
Below the Howick falls is the Wildlife and Environment Society of Southern Africa’s Umgeni Valley Nature Reserve that serves as an environmental education centre.
The Howick Museum is situated near the Howick Falls and displays the early history of the settlers. It also has an interesting and comprehensive collection of military badges, as well as medical and dental equipment on display.
Some aviation historians believe that the world’s first flight in a controlled, heavier-than-air machine was made at Karkloof in the early 1870’s. Long before Lilienthal’s celebrated gliding feats in Germany or the Wright brothers’ first flights in the USA, Goodman Household, who followed his father from Britain to Natal in 1864, designed his glider on a model of a vulture that he shot on the farm. He built his flying machine from bamboo, oiled paper and steel tubes. One evening, assisted by his brother and a few Zulu retainers, they carried the glider to a suitable launching site on the Karkloof krantzes, near Howick Falls. He got into the pilot’s seat, a swing-like contraption, suspended from the wings of the glider, and launched himself over the cliffs. It glided for about 100 m before descending across the kloof, a distance of about 250m, to crash into a tree. Goodman broke a leg and in deference to his mother’s wishes, ceased his experiments in flying.
In the vicinity of Howick are four more waterfalls: Cascade Falls [25m], Shelter Falls [37 m], Karkloof Falls [105 m] and Woodhouse Falls [10m].