Waterval Boven traces its origin back to 1895 when the Eastern Line railway was constructed between Pretoria and Delagoa Bay. Its name is derived from the Elands River Waterfall, above which it is situated. Waterval Boven was chosen as a settlement as it stood at the edge of the plateau before the escarpment, and thus had a moderate fever free climate. The cog wheel rail ascending the slopes of the mountain between Waterval Onder and the town is the only one of its kind in Africa, and a depot for the cog wheel locomotives was established at Waterval Boven. The town was administered by the railways until 1946, when it was transferred to a health committee. The town boasts a wonderful climate and is situated alongside the N4, which is the main route from Gauteng to the Eastern Lowveld.
The Elands River, which passes through the town, is a fly fisherman's paradise and is full of trout. Waterval Boven is an ideal hub to use as a base for hiking, climbing or just viewing the wonderful scenic beauty of this part of Mpumalanga. This was the last place of residence of President Paul Kruger before his departure for Europe.