I am sort of reassured by the 'walking in the area for years' comment as I have never seen anyone. Maybe commonsense does prevail.
I still am amazed at the decision to allow walking in the area - there are plenty of other stretches of the river.
First of all, you should bear in mind that the Makuleke Contract National Park is private land. It was restored to the Makuleke community, who were unceremoniously kicked out in the late 60s. The Makuleke could have done whatever they wanted with the land: mined it, turned it over to agriculture or cattle ranching, or trophy hunting. Instead, they decided to set it aside as a privately owned national park. Without going into all the tedious details, this means that SANParks is responsible for such things as road maintenance and environmental management. The rest is up to the Makuleke.
Two private lodges as well as a guide training company operate in the area. Walking is permitted anywhere and everywhere, although SANParks' anti-poaching unit needs to be kept informed. These walks are of course guided.
Walks generally take place early morning and late afternoon, when there should not be any tourists at Crooks' or the picnic site, and in the case of the latter there is no particular reason to walk there, unless you are following the river. Besides, the picnic site is easily skirted, as the vegetation is pretty thick along the northern riverbank. You could walk 10-15 meters in without anybody at the picnic site ever seeing you. The same goes for the point opposite the two S63 T-junction river view loops, as well as the long hippo pool loop farther downstream (which after the floods has become a "no hippo" pool loop anyway).
The western S-63 T-junction loop - a different perspective (If you look really
carefully, you can see the top of the road sign at the junction.)