China's Three Gorges Dam
The Three Gorges region, or Yangtze Gorges region, as it is also known, is a scenic area that extends for approximately 120 miles along China’s Yangtze River. Most famous for its scenery, the region also has historic and cultural value and is renowned for being the home of the Three Gorges Dam. This immense dam opened in 2008 and has had a major impact on both the Three Gorges region and China in general. Much of the impact is positive, especially as things relate to economics. The Three Gorges Dam isn’t without its detractors, however. Among the reasons for its rather controversial reputation is the fact that its reservoir flooded a number of archaeological sites as well as entire villages and towns.
The best way to take in China’s Three Gorges region is on Yangtze River cruises. These tours most often start upriver in the Chongqing Municipality, which means that the first gorge that the ships usually enter is the Qutang Gorge. This gorge extends for approximately five miles from Baidicheng to Daxi Town in Wushan County and is the shortest of the Three Gorges. It might also be the most visually spectacular. Mountains as high as 4,000 feet rise up on either side of the river in the Qutang Gorge, and there are plenty of narrowly dramatic passageways to navigate. As a side note, many Yangtze cruise tours include a visit to Baidicheng on their itineraries. This ancient village at the western entrance of the Qutang Gorge is home to an interesting temple complex, and since it is found on an island, it can only be reached by boat.
Moving eastward through the Three Gorges region, the next gorge that you will come to is the Wu Gorge. This gorge sits on the border of Wushan County and Badong County, or the border of the Chongquing Municipality and Hubei Province, and is surrounded by the picturesque peaks of the Wu Mountains. The lush peaks in the Wu Gorge area form fascinating shapes and are often enshrouded in clouds and mist. There is a rather tranquil feel to this 28-mile portion of the Three Gorges region, and those passing through it certainly won’t want for inspiring vistas.
The Xiling Gorge is the most downstream gorge in the Three Gorges region. It is also the longest of the Three Gorges, extending for approximately 45 miles from Xiangxi to the western suburbs of Yichang. The gorge gets its name from Mt. Xiling, which can be found at the eastern end. Another major feature of the Xiling Gorge is the Three Gorges Dam. Prior to the dam’s construction, it should be noted, dangerous whirlpools and rapids made the Xiling Gorge a rather thrilling area for boaters. The rise in the water level has resulted in a less dangerous passage. As is true of the other gorges that are found in the Three Gorges region, the Xiling Gorge is largely framed by mountains and cliffs. The scenery is once again spectacular and helps to explain why so many people include a Three Gorges cruise on their China vacation itineraries.