Province of the Orange River
The Free State (Afrikaans: Vrystaat; Sotho: Freistata; Xhosa: iFreyistata; Tswana: Foreistata; Zulu: iFuleyisitata; before 1995, the Orange Free State) is a province of South Africa. Its capital is Bloemfontein, which is also South Africa’s judicial capital. Its historical origins lie in the Boer republic called the Orange Free State and later Orange Free State Province.
The Free State is situated on a succession of flat grassy plains sprinkled with pastureland, resting on a general elevation of 3,800 feet only broken by the occasional hill or kopje. The rich soil and pleasant climate allow for a thriving agricultural industry. With more than 30,000 farms, which produce over 70% of the country’s grain, it is known locally as South Africa’s breadbasket.
The province is high-lying, with almost all land being 1,000 metres above sea level. The Drakensberg and Maluti Mountains foothills raise the terrain to over 2,000 m in the east. The Free State lies in the heart of the Karoo Sequence of rocks, containing shales, mudstones, sandstones and the Drakensberg Basalt forming the youngest capping rocks. Mineral deposits are plentiful, with gold and diamonds being of particular importance, mostly found in the north and west of the province.