Three Sisters Rapid. Photo by Mick O'Shea

Mekong in SW Yunnan

In 2003, Mick O'Shea, an Australian kayaker, attempted to coordinate a joint expedition with Pete Winn and Chinese boaters to run a source to sea expedition on the Mekong. This didn't work out, so in June 2004, he probably succeeded in a solo kayak first descents of the section that Pete Winn, Masauki Kitamura and Lui Li were unable to run in April 2004 (30 21 19N, 97 46 05E to 28 58 16N, 98 37 39E). From his descriptions, this is not a good repeat run, regardless of flow. Gradient is about 25' per mile and the summer flows were approximately 50,000 cfs. O'Shea has written a book (In the Naga's Wake, 2006) and produced a video (Exploring the Mother of Waters, produced by Brian Eustis) about his 2004 source to sea expedition.

In 2008, a team of American kayakers led by Travis Winn repeated this section of river and was unable to confirm the number and size of rapids described by O'Shea, leading them to believe that O'Shea did not complete the first descent. The issue is unresolved.

As part of his source to sea expedition, O'Shea and Brian Eustis completed a first descent of the section from Baijun (near 27 23 13N, 99 05 02E, the take-out for the Japanese 2002 expedition) to near the Yongbao Bridge (25 28 35N, 99 20 25E, the put-in for the ESE 1995 first descent, all roadside). The section from the Tibet border to the Yongbao Bridge is suitable for commercial rafting at low winter flows.

O'Shea also boated from the take-out for the ESE 1997 Man Wan Gorge Expedition at the Jinggu-Lincang Bridge (23 33 44N, 100 10 27E) to the end of the rapids above Xishuanbana Park (about 23 13 02N, 100 02 40E).

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