Salween in Great Rivers National Park, Yunnan

Phil Wegener Kantor with kids.

The put-in is near Bingzhongluo (28 01 35N, 98 38 01E). There is a road along the entire stretch of the river in Yunnan, so the group car camped. At October & November flows (30,000 cfs), there are a few bigwater Class 5 rapids. In particular, Leaping Tiger (not to be confused with Tiger Leaping Gorge on the Yangtze) is so long and complicated that only two kayakers ran it (Scott Young and Dave Pizutti). The gradient is about 15' per mile over this 200 mile stretch (take-out at Liuku, 25 51 57N, 98 50 54E) and water temperature is about 60 F in November. There are abundant large beaches for camping, a few small towns and many Nu, Lisu and Tibetan villages.

This expedition was an attempt to help the Chinese establish their own commercial river touring company on the Nu Jiang in the newly proposed Great Rivers National Park. However, the effort failed in part because the river was too big for the small lightly loaded rafts, scaring the Chinese rafters. White Pearl Expeditions (chinarivers.com/nujiang.html, also see link below) has offered commercial tours on this stretch since 1997, but as of 2007 it has not made a repeat run. An international bigwater kayak competition was held at Leaping Tiger Rapid in 2013. Travis Winn of Last Descent Expeditions kayaked the section run by White Pearl in 2011 and decided the stretch below Liuku is better suited for commercial rafting (see 2012).

The expedition was documented in a video by Philip Wegener Kantor Photography. Also see "Face-to-Face with a Leaping Tiger" by Zia Parker, Paddler Magazine, July/August 98.

The Nature Conservancy, which is helping the Chinese manage Great Rivers National Park (www.nature.org/wherewework/asiapacific/china/work/art5098.html), began to explore the area for its potential for ecotourism in 2002 and a Chinese company, Last Descents (www.lastdescents.com) began running stretches of the river commercially in 2006. Both these groups and White Pearl hope to limit the construction of several large dams planned for the river. Water flows are more favorable for safe boating during the winter months. Winter weather is generally pleasant due to the low elevation (less than 6,000') and low latitude. Permits must be obtained in advance from local authorities.

Flat Busted in Fugong by Dennis Schultz - read all three chapters.)

Return to Salween First Descents.
More info about rivers of Tibet and western China