Embu County

Discover Embu County

View of Mwea Rice Scheme Paddies.  Photo Courtesy of Mwangi Kirubi
View of Mwea Rice Scheme Paddies.  Image Courtesy of Mwangi Kirubi 

Brief Overview of Embu County

On the map of Kenya, Embu County has a look of a scalene triangle drawn with an unsteady hand.  Its apex is thrust into Mount Kenya Park, and the imaginary triangle then inclines moderately from apex to base.  Within the overall slope in Embu County are many rivers, which lower down converge into River Tana that eventually drains into the Indian Ocean after traversing 727 kms. Its principal lines of communication are the Makutano-Embu-Meru Road, which crosses it in the northern area from Embu to Kathageri en-route Meru, and Embu-Kivaa-Kitui Road which travels south from Embu through Gachoka, Kiritiri and Kivaa.

The area north and south of Embu County is strikingly different and is majorly composed of two distinct zones with different agro-climatic variations; with the cool, healthy and fertile zone in upper area around Mount Kenya – consisting of Runyenjes and Manyatta – standing in perched contrast to the hotter, droughty and lower area – consisting of Mbeere North and Mbeere South. The southwest part of Embu is covered by Mwea Plains. Unexpectedly, the southeast area has closer affinities with that west of Kitui persisting at best as a semi-arid terrain. Its notable hills, confined to the northern half, are consisted of Kiangombe and Kanjiri Hills separated by a wide valley through which the Tana has cut its path.

​Embu is best-known as the hydro-electricity giant of Kenya, and as a gateway to Mount Kenya National Park. It’s host to the regionally famed seven forks hydro electric dam project, which is a series of five major dams constructed along its southern border, along River Tana, that collectively generate 543 MW, placing its contribution to the national installed H.E.P capacity at 75%. River Tana, the recipient of all the drainage in the area, is a notable example of a strike stream having selected for its course within the area a channel of fairly little resistance. Sighted widely, Mount Kenya is perhaps the most conspicuous feature in Embu.

Salient Features of Embu County

  • County Number 14
  • Area – 2818 km2
  • Altitude – 515 to 5100 ms
  • Major Towns – Embu, Siakago, Runyenges
  • Borders – Kirinyaga, Kitui, Machakos, Muranga, Tharaka Nithi, Meru

Brief History of Embu County

Until the 1940’s, Embu’s politics had been largely loyalist. Prior to the 1940’s, the threat of losing chunks of their land to European settlers, as their Kikuyu neighbours had done, encouraged loyalist politics in Embu. Their Local Native Council was adequately in charge of labour to state farms in Embu. After the 1940’s, there was increased collaboration with the Kikuyu and Meru to oppose colonial administration. Embu was one of the first districts in Central Kenya to undergo native land registration with title deeds being awarded as early as 1961.

View of Mwea National Reserve.  Photo Courtesy of Wander Kenya
View of Mwea National Reserve.  Image Courtesy of Wander Kenya

Places of Interest in Embu County

1. Mwea Rice Plains

We live in a time of rapid upheaval. Towns, once trivial centres, are reshaping themselves in size; the good road network drastically improved by successive governments over the last decade upending the development. The tailend of B6 Embu-Meru Road, turning off the A2 Nairobi-Isiolo-Moyale Road at Makutano, could be said to possess some burgeoning elements, although the ramshackle disposition of these centres have few reasons for the traveller to stop. Likewise this section of B6 Road has little to commend it as it travels through Kirinyaga County on the way to Embu Town, and the gateway into Embu County. 14 kms beyond Makutano along the B6, at the third centre, Mutithi, around the bend, a definitive and easily fetching landscape unfolds. If there is still a debate on the best vantages of Mount Kenya, as a matter of travel interest, the view of Mount Kenya with a dramatic stretch of the unvarying plane of the green-hued paddies at Mwea Irrigation Scheme is a sure contender provided in good weather. Here, the terrain levels out into a flat sheet of land, the mountain rising eminently as a jaw-dropping backdrop. The vast 60 km2 Mwea Rice Irrigation Scheme seen between Mutithi and Wang’uru (Mwea) was instituted in 1953 by the colonial government and handed over to National Board in 1963. At present it is Kenya’s biggest rice growing project. It covers the southern region of Kirinyaga County. These paddies are sown during the rainy season and they are especially worth the look-see between April and July or between November and early December.

2. God’s Bridge

For the B6 Nairobi-Embu bound motorist the scenery is splendid. Once off the Nairobi-Nyeri Road, at Makutano, the good tarmac road becomes less jammed as it runs up to Mount Kenya. It winds between a fairly flat country and as the gradient climbs it gives way to a more precipitous landscape as you near Embu Town, located on the extreme northeast edge of the County. One of the viewing sites trippers can see along this stretch is the famous God’s Bridge, more proper Ndaraca ya Ngai. This is found near the Mururi Market, 31 kms from Makutano and 12 kms before Embu. This natural formation, which requires some delicate navigation along a narrowed path uncomfortably close to the rushing Nyamindi River to get to, was once a hideaway for Mau-Mau brigades during the struggle for self-rule. Posited within the charming view of Mount Kenya, God’s Bridge is moulded by a process of cave-development in the lime stone beneath the river bed, forming a 15 meters long cave, with plenty of headroom. Inside, the cave is gazed with grey, smoggy and mold-green walls comprised of striking saw-tooth jagged rocks over the river which flows gently in this section.  To get here, take the left turn shorty after Mururi Market towards Defaith Centre for about 1 km.

3. Issak Walton Inn

Certainly, Isaak Walton Inn is Embu’s most famous hotel establishments and, although the limelight on it has faded, but only just, this 71 year old inn still has held its wits about it. A few decades ago, Isaak Walton Inn was one of the most sought after accommodation in Central Kenya by holiday-makers destined for Mount Kenya National Park. Today, the 90-rooms hotel, set-up on 9-acres in close proximity to Embu Town, is still stylish, full of character, with a brimming history. Its conservative and signature old-style Victorian design still delivers an updated take on the classic English architecture, which is complemented by its mature gardens and ancient trees. The rooms are quietly opulent and feature all the creature comforts. One of its high-points, however, is the watering-hole. Hanging along its wall-spaces are preserved big fishes and mounted records, which are a ‘living-history’ of its surpassing history as a fishing destination. Its other amenities include a swimming pool, squash court, gym, and horse-riding.

4. Njukiri Forest

Njukiri Forest (in Embu) and Njukiini Forest (in Kirinyaga) form a contiguous forest block at the eastern base of Mount Kenya. In Embu, Njukiri Community Forest Association (NCFA), with support from Kenya Forest Service, has been continually involved in tree planting exercises to replenish the degraded areas. This was in recognition that the environment and forests protection is a shared responsibility that ought to be pursued tirelessly by all. Between 2015 and 2017, NCFA planted 150,000 tree seedlings, 75% exotic and 25% indigenous species, with an average survival rate of 75%: While Kangaita Community Forest Users Association has replenished 55-hectares of Njukiini Forest in Kirinyaga County.

Spatial Location of Njukiri Forest in Embu County
Spatial Location of Njukiri Forest in Embu County

5. Camp Ndunda Falls

Arriving at Embu Town there is a choice of two roads, one running southerly to Kiritiri and Kitui and another running northerly to Meru. If you take the latter route, to Meru, the road continues up a slight gradient through Mutunduri and Runyenges as you near the boundary of Mount Kenya National Reserve. 2 kms after the turnoff and taking a left turn near Embu Level 5 Hospital towards the Njukiri Forest is a unique attraction. Located at the northeast tip of the forest is Camp Ndunda Falls, one of the best adventure outfits in Embu County, which attracts nature-lovers, birdies and hikers from war and wide. Some of its prime highlights include a rope-bridge looking over the Ndunda Falls, zip-line across Rupingazi River, walking the Njukiri Forest trail and biking around the camp. It also has a well-kept and pocket-friendly camp (liked for its hanging or rocking beds) and a camping site. The area is also wildly beautiful and unspoiled, set at the foot slopes of Mount Kenya and along the banks of River Rupingazi. Across the trails is a constantly changing scenery met with a friendly fork and plenty of monkeys going about their risible rituals. From the turnoff, it is 6 kms to Camp Ndunda Falls passing ASK Show Ground and through Njukiri Shopping Centre.

6. Murinduko Hill Forest

Not far from Njukiri Forest, south of Embu Town along B7 Embu-Kivaa-Kitui Road, sits Murinduko Hill. Much of the 19.42 km2 Murinduko Hill Forest sits in neighbouring Kirinyaga County but it is easier approached via Embu Town. During the colonial area, Murinduko was part of Njukiini Location, an area that stretched as far as Njukiini and Njukiri Forest. It is one of few isolated hills that terminate the gently rolling landscape hitherto seen on the approach to Embu from Makutano. Murinduko Village (1350 ms above sea level) is a non-irrigated area outside Mwea Irrigation Scheme. It is situated on the slopes of Murinduko Hill and is served by two streams that flow at the edge of the village. Murinduko Hill Forest, which has the highest representation of larval habitat types among the forests in Central Kenya, also has a delightfully unique topographic profile, especially of its cliffs, gorges, and valleys pieced together by the river action and temporary pools formed within the forest. The local community run ecotourism tours around the forest to the unique landforms, apiary, and traditional shrines.

7. Karue Hill

One of Embu’s most cherished hills today is the Karue Hill which conspicuously towers along Embu-Runyenjes Road and above the surrounding sweep of small hummocky hills and forest. This conical hill, reaching 1,600 ms, is easily known by the tiny transmitting station set at the summit. It is a visual masterpiece and the view atop is pure delight. The scene changes character in every direction as the rural countryside unfolds into the distant horizon. At sunset, it is a love-nest where locals come to unwind and have earshot tete-a-tetes. Its moderate incline makes it easy to ascend, taking on average 20 minutes to climb. At the hilltop, it has many mysterious and finely-chiseled rock formations jutting out, that make for interesting exploration. “Curiously, at the very top of the hill, there are two tall eucalyptus trees which offer the much required shade for visitors” – Nation MG. It is also an invaluable cultural asset with huge cultural sway and a prayer site. It is situated 20 kms from Embu ,past Mutunduri and Karingari, near Ena.

Spatial Location of Karue Hill in Embu County
Spatial Location of Karue Hill in Embu County

8. Kirimiri Forest

Easily sighted from Karue Hill (and vice-versa) and about 6 kms away through the villages, Kirimiri Forest is divided into four zones: farmland comprising of tea; forest edge comprising of pine tree; a mixed forest with pine trees; and an intact indigenous forest. On the whole, it covers almost 1.7 km2. Despite having sustained some degradation over the years, to inch out land for farming and development, this forest patch now managed by Kenya Forest Service is for all that still a fetching forest. It is one of the smallest forests in Central Kenya but far important than its size suggests. Kirimiri Hill, rising to 1790 ms, dominates much of its landscape and is a great walking trail, yet, it is the triple-waterfall-run which offer the major attraction to the visitors to Kirimiri – starting at the twin Nthenge-Njeru Falls, through to Thungu Falls. “There are caves near these waterfalls and others around Kirimiri Hill which are historically significant as they served as hideouts for Mau Mau brigades. It’s located in Mukuuri location.

9. Nthenge Njeru Falls

Most people make Melody Eco-Lodge, 4.3 kms from Karue Hill via B6 Embu to Meru Road, their starting-off point for exploring both Nthenge Njeru Falls and Nthungu Falls. There, the visitor can stay at their modest nature based lodge or enter the Kirimiri Forest, that is a treasure trove of great scenes and spectacles. This is set on a vantage at the side of a hill, where the Nthenge Njeru Falls can be seen not far off. The first impression on the visitor is how green everything is. The landscape is a year-round verdant sweep of forests, hillocks and farms interspersed by a few strewn hamlets and rural homes. Approached on a steep foot path, as one goes down to its base, it gets cooler and wildly viridescent and the scenery is more impressive than most expect. It is a gem often sold short. At the bottom, the awe-inspiring 33 ms twin falls of Nthenge Njeru Falls comes to full view, and generally has a tremendous impression on most visitors and can be visited within a day from Nairobi. A trip to Nthenge Njeru should not omit a visit to the Nthungu Falls. Another alternative place to stay in the area is Hotel Wilstar, close by Runyenges. Melody Eco-Lodge is located 24 kms from Embu.

Video of Nthenge Njeru Fall narrated in Kiembu. Published by Filex

10. Nthungu Falls

Owing to its fine-drawn resemblance to the world-famous Thompson’s Falls in Nyahururu, the 35 ms-tall Nthungu Falls has been nicknamed “the miniature Thompson’s Falls”. Many visitors to the untravelled Nthungu Falls approach it from Kirimiri Forest. Like at Nthenge Njeru Falls, a footpath leads down the hill to the falls. The keen hiker will find a thrilling experience in just walking to this falls. Along the trail, which passes through Kirimiri Forest, there are plenty of villages where one can catch a glimpse of the stripped-down ways of life here. Then, there’s the precipitous wooded landscape which is epitomized by views of Mount Kenya, which stands sentinel in the background. The walking trail from Melody Eco-Lodge to Nthenge Njeru, Kirimiri Forest, Thungu Falls and back, is about 7.5 kms and it takes on average 5 hours of casual walking and scrambling.

11. Nthenge Njeru Hike Trail

Great for groups, backed up by local guides that can be availed through Melody Eco-Lodge prior, Nthenge Njeru Hike Trail is one the veritable hikes in Embu County. The fact that the 8 kms trails can be portrayed before commencement (at Melody) makes this hike agreeably. The aim is to go up and over the tapered wooded hill within sight of Melody Lodge, through tea farms, a small unnamed rapid and bucolic boonies, then go down a steep side of a hill to Nthungu Falls (also known as Mbiu-Njeru) and back to Melody Eco-Camp, to descend on yet another steep side of a hill to Nthenge Njeru Falls; the crowning moment of the hike. After a short brief and warm up, you head out of Melody Eco-Lodge along the narrowed and winding Mukuuri-Kevote Road for about 1.5 kms to the base of the hill – passing both the paths to the Nthenge Njeru and Mbiu Njeru Falls. Whilst it’s a rather steep hill climb, it’s bright, airy and smelling of fresh stems, and provides a powerful shift in the senses. Atop of the hill there is a viewing ledge from where Ruyenges Town and the stunning countryside appear rather small or distance in comparison. The walk down the hill is also engaging, over pencil-thin footpaths often through thick bush and scrambling over small steep sections. Once through the tea farms, you double back along the bitumenized Mukuuri-Kevote Road, down a steep sometimes slippery path to explore Mbiu-Njeru Falls. Once back up, the walk takes to near Melody Eco-Camp, down a steep slope to Nthege-Njeru, thence back to the camp. The Nthenge Njeru Hike takes about 5 hours and it is rated easy to moderate. A good watch for weather, lots of drinking water, snacks, sturdy walking shoes and raincoat are necessary.

12. Mount Kenya National Park

Of the five mountains in Africa whose peaks rise over 14,000 ft, only three are permanently snow-capped – Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft), Kenya (17,058 ft) and the Ruwenzoris (16,763 ft). They were climbed in that order – Kilimanjaro being first in 1888, Kenya second in 1889, and the Ruwenzoris in 1906. Every year, thousands of people take to these three mountains for the hiking challenge. Mt. Kenya, which is more scenic than faunal, is the most-liked climbing destination in Kenya. The ascend to Point Lenana, 3rd highest peak, can be made through eight different trails but the two most popular are Naro Moru and Sirimon. The snowy peaks of Mount Kenya, lying just south of the equator, are the prominent landmark in Embu County, which is one of five counties whose borders extends to the tip of Mount Kenya alongside Nyeri, Meru, Tharaka Nithi and Kirinyaga.  The encircling ring of land from 5,000 ft. to 9,000 ft. is comprised of protected forests. There is a hiking route that goes through Embu West, on its way up to Mount Kenya. The trail commences at the Irangi Forest Information Centre. It is reached by taking the turnoff before Melody Eco-Lodge and Kiarimui Centre. It’s a 17 kms drive from here via Mukuuri to Mbui Njeru Road to Irangi Station.

Hiking Routes at the Mount Kenya National Park.  Image Courtesy
Hiking Routes at the Mount Kenya National Park. Image Courtesy

13. Mzima Fishing Camp

Weekenders who are keen fishermen, but also want to make excursions in the tableland of Embu County, will find fishing in the highland streams at Mzima Fishing Camp located near the Ishiara Centre 46 kms from Embu along Embu-Runyenges Road, a double treat. For day guests a caretaker is at hand to help: select the couthy spots, details the catch; and lure restrictions. The prized catch here is brown trout and the general atmosphere at Mzima Camp, in beautiful surrounding, is laid-back and friendly. They operate a rustic inexpensive camp with a old-times long drop toilet (with a seat) and a safari style shower. Camps, beds, beddings, towels, chairs, tables, cooking-utensils and gas equipment are available for hire. Other activities include river walks, dam tours, cultural trips and farm activities (milking cows, goat herding, macadamia nut gathering and tea farm tours), tropical fruit tasting, forest mapping, drumming sessions and entertainment by the electrifying Mbeere Drummers, photography and picnics. 

14. Kaagari-Gaturi Irrigation Scheme

Earmarked as the proposed site for the Thuchi Dam, which will support 6,600-hectares irrigation project targeting 12,000 farmers, Kaagari-Gaturi Irrigation Scheme does make for a no-frills walking destination. Here, away from the busy and cramped outside world, and where people are rarer than the butterflies, the connection with nature is dreamlike. The walk along its canals and spillways is wonderful. The site is typified by rugged topography with several small valleys and ridges which are the headwaters for varied stream tributaries and springs feeding the River Thuchi. The forest has prolific species diversity, both planted and natural. The site is located near the border between Runyenjes and Chuka.

15. Ancient Mbeere Terraces

In the Mbeere area, north of the River Tana, the inhabitants have maintained a tradition of fabricating extensive stone terraces, which were extant before the arrival of Europeans to this region, and the remains of these can still be seen. “This reconditioning in order to control soil erosion, mainly involving terracing and construction of live wash stops, was done on every piece of land claimed by an individual”. During the colonial period, the Agriculture Land Development persisted the culture of terracing, albeit with an iron fist. Compulsory terracing was done three mornings a week consuming lots of time that was initially used in agricultural production. To ensure that the terracing program was a success, the Colonial Government enticed the natives of Embu North towards terracing.

16. Kiang’ombe Forest Reserve

This is the largest of Embu’s forest system and is easily accessible from the Ena-Siakago-Kiritiri Road or Embu-Kiritiri-Kitui Road. It occupies about 20 km2 of a predominantly indigenous forest, with less than 5% exotic plantations mainly found at the foot and top of the Kiang’ome Hill. Likewise, its wooded landscape is also one of the most over exploited hilltop forest, which has gained enormous support for its sustainable conservation and rehabilitation. The forest reserve is separated from Mumoni Hills, in Kitui County, by a broad valley through which the Tana River, and to the east – where the Mumoni Hill sits – the landscape is typified by semi-humid to semi-arid open plains. To the southwest, sits Kianjiru Hill. North and northwest of Kiang’ombe the area contains a superb display of a verdant undulating landscape backdropped by the magnificent Mount Kenya. It is the Kiang’ombe Hill, rising to 1804 ms, that draws walkers to the reserve. The eminent feature in the reserve is the block of resistant granitoid gneiss forming the central Kiang’ombe Hill. It’s found in Siakago about 12 kms north of Kiritiri.

Spatial Location of Kiang'ombe Forest Reserve in Embu County
Spatial Location of Kiang’ombe Forest Reserve in Embu County

17. Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve

This is found in the northwest edge of Kitui County and reached 64 kms north of Mwingi Town along the C93 Mwingi-Kathwana Road, at Katse. Mumoni Hill, emerging as a wooded inselberg, rises to 1811 ms (6000 ft) and 700 ms from the surrounding arid scrub land plains. To the west, Mumoni Hill is separated from Kiang’ombe Forest Reserve (in Embu County) by a broad valley cut through by Tana River; which in the southwest area is dammed to carve out Kiambere Dam – completed in 1987 along the border between Embu and Kitui Counties as part of the Seven Forks Dam Project. Mumoni Hill forms the larger parts of the 104 km2 Mumoni Forest Reserve alongside Muvoria Hill Forest Reserve set in its immediate south. Both these hillscapes were gazetted in 1993 as a forest reserve owing to their importance as a water tower for the densely populated Mwingi North region. For tourism, Mumoni Hill Forest Reserve is a walkers and bird-watchers wild-escape, where colourful birds like raptors, hindes babbler, palied harrier, Somali biome and martial eagles have been regularly spotted. Although still underdeveloped, the reserve is crisscrossed by a vast network of pathways from which nature-lovers can appreciate its rich floral and avi-faunal beauty as well as its fetching mountain scenery. 375 plant species were identified in 2006.

18. Kianjiru Hill

At first glance there’s little to commend the moderate and isolated Kianjiru Hill, located just west of Kiritiri Town.  Yet, Kianjiru Hill holds a great secret. It is a singular location which plays host to a spectacular view of the planetary system. So much so, that the planning of a planetarium to be spearheaded by National Museums of Kenya was proposed although this is yet to fall into shape. The ‘Sky Museum’, when complete, will be the first of its kind in Kenya. At the moment, it is a respectable hiking destination. Most callers to the area aim for the top of the granite outcrop of Kianjiru Hill, which is a memorable viewpoint. Much the same as at Kiang’ombe, the prominent features is the gigantic granitoid gneiss. It is situated just 29 kms south Embu Town along the Embu-Kiritiri-Kitui Road.

19. Mwea National Reserve

Looking out south to Kamburu Dam and Machakos County is the 42 km2 Mwea National Reserve, which is a haunt of wild open grassland, scattered acacia and baobabs with a few far-between rolling hills. Kamburu Dam, situated on its east and southeast, harbours an interesting variety of fauna and flora, notably of its crocodiles and hippos. A boat can be hired from park gate to explore Kamburu Dam. Also found at Mwea National Reserve is the confluence of Thiba and Tana Rivers. It is home to more than 200 species of birds including the rare Hinde’s babbler, endemic to Kenya. Created in 1979, M.R.N hosts a good concentration of wildlife including elephants, kudus, antelope, giraffe and Burchell’s zebra. An electric fence has been put up in some sections to keep wildlife in and poachers out. From Embu Town, it is reached on a good 41-kms tarmac road to Mavuria through Gachoka and Kiritiri, then on a 15 kms road which runs parallel to its northern boundary upto the park gate. There is a longer alternative route from Nairobi via Thika, Matuu, and Masinga Dam (160 kms) on a good road which is surfaced until Masinga. 10 kms is covered on all-weather road to Makima Gate.

Spatial Location of Mwea National Reserve in Embu County
Spatial Location of Mwea National Reserve in Embu County

20. Kamburu Dam

The 15 km2 Kamburu Dam, commissioned in 1975, generates close to 95 MW to the national grid. Masinga Dam, built upstream, ensures Kamburu has a steady water supply. The water discharged from the plant flows down a 3040 ms long tailrace tunnel before doubling back to River Tana River and further down into Gitaru Dam. Its eco-system comprises of small hills with bristly vegetation and scattered woddy of acacia. Kamburu Dam is also the confluence point of Rivers Tana and Thiba. Mwea National Reserve, which is contiguous on the northwest limit of Kamburu Dam, is a worthwhile site where trippers can enjoy its beauty. 

21. Masinga Dam

Commissioned in 1981 and spread over 120 km2, Masinga Dam is the largest man-made lake in the East and Central Africa Region – the equivalent of Lake Naivasha.  Masinga Dam’s two vertical Kaplan turbines generate 40 MW that is first transmitted to Kamburu Dam then onwards and upwards to Nairobi City.  For tourism, Masinga Dam is the most developed of the five Seven Forks Dams, with water-sports, boating tours to the tiny Gichuki Island (in the middle of the dam) being part of the many things to enjoy here. There is also the homey and modest Masinga Dam Resort located adjacent to the Masinga Reservoir. It is found 31 kms from Thika to Garissa Road and just 10 kms from Kamburu Dam. 

22. Gitaru Dam

Gitaru Dam, which is situated between Kamburu and Kindaruma Dams, was commissioned in 1981 and is the largest of the Seven Forks Project’s dams by hydroelectric power output. Gitaru’s average output is 225 MW in comparison with Masinga’s 40, Kiambere’s 168, Kindaruma’s 72 and Kamburu’s 100 MW. Gitaru Dam’s Power Plant consists of three vertical drop shafts reaching depths of 140 ms into the turbines.  In relation to its volume, its dam is the smallest in the Seven Forks chain, with a reservoir surface area of 3 km2.  It’s found 8 kms off the Embu-Kitui Road, taking a turnoff midway between Mavuria and Kivaa.

Spatial Location of Gitaru Dam in Embu County
Spatial Location of Gitaru Dam in Embu County

21. Kindaruma Dam

Unique to the Kindaruma Dam, east of Gitaru, is that it was the first dam to be commissioned, in 1968, as part of the five vitally-important reservoirs built on the upper reaches of the Tana, more proper the Seven Forks Dam Project.  It is reasonably accessible, via a good road past Gitaru Dam’s turnoff which is well signposted, yet surprisingly untravelled. Its average output is 44 MW, thence its water, back into the Tana, is passed on to Kiambere Dam to its east. The area north and south of Kindaruma Dam is mostly covered by bushland which host a range of wildlife. The rugged hillsides overlooking a vast expanse of low valleys composes a pretty vista, and Kiang’ombe Hill and Mumoni Range can be seen at a distance. It is located 16 kms from Kivaa along the Embu-Kivaa-Kitui Road.

22. Kiambere Dam

The earth-filled embankment of Kiambere Dam, which straddles the boundary between Embu and Kitui County, was completed in 1987. Its 110 ms tall dam withholds a stupefying 585,000,000 m3 of water with the assistance of second earth fill saddle dam to the north. It generates 165 MW. Although it is rich in fish and a favoured fishing spot by natives, the omen of Kiambere Dam is that it’s murky waters are also swarmed over with crocodiles and hippos which have been the subject of indignant human-wildlife conflict.  A major highlights for visitors to Kiambere, and also to Kindaruma, is a chance to view the huge and unsettling tailrace. It is found 38 kms from Kivaa, and 22 kms from Kindaruma.

View of Kianjiru Hill.  Photo Courtesy of Mwaniki Daudi
View of Kianjiru Hill.  Image Courtesy of Mwaniki Daudi

Geography of Embu County

Embu County is epitomized by sharply defined highlands, lowlands and slopes from the north, northwest towards the east and southeast, with a few isolated hills such as Kiambere and Kiang’ombe. Embu County rises from about 515 ms at the River Tana Basin in the east to 5,199 ms at the top of Mount Kenya in the northwest. The southern part of Embu is covered by Mwea Plains, which rise northwards, culminating in hills and valleys to the northern and eastern parts of the county. There are also steep slopes at the foot of Mount Kenya. Embu is drained by six major rivers: Thuci, Tana, Kii, Rupingazi, Thiba and Ena Rivers.

Land Use in Embu County

Embu is characterised by a predominantly rural settlement pattern. There is a vast concentration of people along the major permanent water sources, such as, its rivers and dams where irrigation, farming and fishing are carried out. The settlement pattern is also influenced by social economic activities, rain, and soil fertility. The lower parts, covering areas which receive less rainfall, have a more scattered settlement pattern compared to the upper regions with more rainfall.

Highlights of Embu County

Embu County is best-known for its major dams – that are partly in the county – which generate 75% of Kenya’s hydroelectric power. These comprise of Gitaru, Kamburu, Masinga, Kiambere and Kindaruma dams, all found along the River Tana. The most conspicuous physical features in the county are Mount Kenya, Kiang’ombe, Kianjiru and Karue Hills, Mwea Game Reserve and River Tana.

Population of Embu County

Embu County was projected to have had an average population density of 193 people/ km2 in 2012. This was projected to be 203 and 210, in 2015 and 2017 respectively. The total population of Embu County was estimated to be 538,355 people, comprising of 265,212 males and 273,143 females, as at 2012, and was projected to rise to 561,446, by 2015 and 577,390 by 2017.  The county’s urban population was 42,619 in 2012, out of which, Embu had a population of 37,606 and Siakago and Runyenjes had 2835 and 2178 respectively. Its three big towns.

View of Nthenge Njeru Fall from Melody Eco-Lodge.  Photo Courtesy
View of Nthenge Njeru Fall from Melody Eco-Lodge. Image Courtesy

Airports in Embu County

Embu County has two airstrips: one at Don Bosco in Embu Town, used mainly for security purposes, and other airstrip at Kiambere, used mainly by KenGen.

Roads in Embu County

Embu County is traversed by road B6 (Makutano -Meru), which is the major transport spine and passes through major urban centres in the county such as Embu and Runyenjes. Its roads consists of 914 kms of earthen surface and 120 kms of tarmac – which includes Embu-Meru Road and Embu-Kiritiri Road.

Climate in Embu County

Embu County manifests a typical agro-ecological profile of the windward side of Mount Kenya, from cold and wet upper zones, to hot and dry lower zones in the Tana River Basin areas.  The extensive altitude range of Embu County – from 515 ms to 5199 ms – also influences temperatures, that ranges from widely from 20 C to 30 C. July is usually the coldest month while September is the warmest.

Embu County Distance Chart
Embu County Distance Chart

View of the thumping tail race of water of the Kiambere Dam.  Photo Courtesy
View of the thumping tail race of water at Kiambere Dam. Image Courtesy

National Monuments in Embu County

There are no designated national monuments in Embu County.

Embu County Map

Embu County Map