Welcome to Williston

On 10 July 1768 Johan Abraham Nel of Stellenbosch rested near a fountain close to the Sak River during the birth of his son, planting an almond tree in honour of the event. This tree was eventually to become enormous, and was an oasis in the dry treeless area of the Karee Mountains. In 1845 Johann Heinrich Lutz of Switzerland established a mission station named Amandelboom (Almond tree) at this spot. In 1883 the name was changed to Williston, in honour of the British Cape Colonel Secretary, Colonel H Willis.

Williston covers an area of 13 264 km2 and became an official district in 1926. The area concentrates on sheep farming. Since 1913 farmers were forced by law to fence their boundaries and later in 1929 fences were replaced by jackal-proof fencing.

There is a fantastic but eerie reason to visit Williston: a Tombstone Route, showcasing an exceptional form of art – stonecutting. Nowhere will one find more beautiful and fascinating tombstones than here. Tombstone-making became a form of folk-art as they were skillfully chiselled out of local sandstone.

Dr Bruce Rubidge of the Witwatersrand University discovered a fossil, Anomechephalus Africanus, on the farm Kruitfontein in the Williston district in 1995. It was a cross between a mammal and a reptile, which lived 260 million years ago on the banks of an inland sea.

This area is famous for its corbel houses, and this building method is regarded as the first architectural style in the north-west Karoo. It is unique in that it is built entirely of stone, with flat stones (which formed a scaffolding) protruding from a domed roof.

Williston is situated on the beds of the Zak River, a seasonal river where unique riverbed irrigation is practised, similar to that at the Nile River in Egypt.

This region is also home to a very scarce and endangered animal, the Riverine Rabbit.

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