The steelworks at Vanderbijlpark is the largest of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and began operating in 1947. The town is located along the Northern bank of the Vaal River, where the beautiful Emfuleni Park, a recreation park, is situated. The river is host to many rowing regattas, which are frequented by many of Gautengs school rowing clubs. Running past the Vanderbijlpark is the N1 highway linking the towns and cities of Gauteng with Bloemfontein.
Unlike many of the other towns of the Witwatersrand that owe their development to the gold mining industry, Vanderbijlpark owes its establishment to the expansion of the iron and steel industry. The town was established as an industrial centre on the north bank of the Vaal River in 1944 and named after Hendrik Johannes van der Bijl, a brilliant young scientist who had been recalled from America in 1920 by South Africas then Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, to advise the government on the planning of industrial development in the country.