Rietvlei dam was built during the great depression (from about 1929 to early 1930's) and was completed in 1934. Manual laborers were paid 4 shilling a month and soil was carted away by mule carts. Feeding the dam is the Sesmyl (Six Mile) Spruit, five fountains (one is located on an adjacent property) and five boreholes. Upstream from Rietvlei dam is the Marais Dam which acts as a sludge dam for Rietvlei Dam. Starting in 1988 a two year project raised the dam and made other improvements
Originally the dam was not open to the public but the city council of Pretoria did plan the reserve ecologically and introduced a number of game species to the reserve. The Nauture Reserve was proclaimed in 1948. Rietvlei dam provides Pretoria with 15% of it's water. The reserve covers an area of 3800 hectares and can support up to 2000 head of game.
Rietvlei Dam offers a number of sporting facilities. Fishing is allowed on the northern and western shores and a yacht club house was built on the north-western shore. Motor boats are not allowed on the dam.
The roads in the reserve are well maintained and serve the public for game viewing and the reserve staff as maintenance roads and fire breaks. Roads divide the reserve into 31 blocks. Rotation grazing is practices on the reserve by routinely burning blocks and using lick as supplementary feeding.
The reserve has a typical Highveld climate with dry, frosty winters and an average of 724mm rain during the summer rainy season. Temperatures reach as high as 34°C in the summer and as low as -2° in the winter.
The Reserve is made up of open grassland with undulating hills with indigenous trees clustered in small groups. Due to previous farming practices a number of exotic trees and shrubs also grow in the Reserve. The silver wattle (from Australia) is the most problematic invader as it has no local enemies and seeds can survive up to 50 years in the soil. The silver wattle is removed mechanically and the wood is used as fuel.