The Yangtze river is the third longest river in the world after the Nile and Amazon. At 3,553 miles long it rises in the frozen glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau and disgorges into the East China Sea at Shanghai. It stretches through China‘s most enchanting historic and cultural treasures; and has been an important lifeline since ancient times. Known in China as Chang Jiang (Long River), it runs eastward through Qinghai, then turns south down a deep valley at the border of Sichuan and Tibet to reach Yunnan. The headwaters of the Yangtze originate at a lofty 3,066 feet. In its descent to sea level, it cascades and tumbles to Chongqing, where it becomes more navigable.
The dream of taming the Yangtze and harnessing its prolific energy first surfaced in 1919. In the 1950s Chairman Mao gave it his blessing but it took another two decades for the construction to receive approval. The creation of the mighty 607 feet-high, 1.4 mile-long dam and reservoir is not solely for the generation of power, it’s principal raison d’être is flood control following three devastating floods which killed thousands between 1949 and 1998.
Scenic highlights for visitors enjoying a cruise on the Yangtze include the legendary Three Gorges created by the Yangtze forcing its way through a spectacular barrier of limestone ridges. At five miles long, the Qutang Gorge is the shortest and narrowest of the three and is enclosed on both sides by high, precipitous cliffs. At Wushan, where the Daning River flows into the Yangtze, tourists board smaller boats to explore the 20-mile-long Lesser Three Gorges. These remarkable canyons are at their ethereal best when low clouds cloak the peaks and curtains of rain add to the ghostliness. Dragon Gate Gorge is the first and most dramatic, only 30-foot wide in parts. A highlight of Misty Gorge is the hanging coffins, relics of the Ba people, as well as ancient plank roads carved into the cliffs. In Emerald Gorge the chattering of monkeys accompanies a cacophony of birdsong.
The cruise along the Yangtze continues through the serene 28-mile-long Wu Gorge (known as the Witches Gorge), past the captivating Twelve Peaks. The awe-inspiring diorama persists through the 41-mile-long Xiling Gorge with its craggy rock formations.
East of the controversial but mighty dam, Yichang is the first city on the Yangtze Plain. The river then continues on through Hubei province, receiving more water from thousands of lakes. The ‘Long River’ finally reaches its destination at the vibrant city of Shanghai. Most cruise tours of the Yangtze are combined with a visit to see the Terracotta Warriors in Xian. These trips also include stays in mind-numbing Beijing and dynamic Shanghai. Both add to the raptures of a Yangtze cruise experience. For further information about our selection of cruises along the Yangtze call our cruise specialists on 0800 484 0314 or click on www.barrheadtravel.co.uk.