Map of west central Sichuan adapted from Rand McNalley New Millenium Atlas
Map and Descriptions of Rivers Segments Kayaked in Sept 2004 by Travis Winn
Paddlers: Travis Winn, Dan Monskey, Roy Hovland, Tony Griessbach
Qing Yi Jiang (would be 3rd Descent, 9/7/2004) 2004a
Paddlers: Dan, Roy, Travis (Tony opted out because flow too high, happy taking pictures)
Put in: same as 2003
Take out: same as put in
Flow: Estimated to be 4-5000 cfs. One meter higher than last year.
Gradient: 50 ft/mile
Length: Barely survived first rapid.
Run Description: Roy missed scout eddy for first large rapid, Travis paddled first rapid blind, vaguely remembering a sneak line from last year. Saw Roy tumbled in two holes, then from half way down the rapid saw Roy's boat floating in a seemingly improbable eddy at the bottom of the first rapid. Travis caught the eddy, believing Roy to be dead but not wanting to continue around the corner blindly. Meanwhile, Dan caught the eddy upstream, knowing Roy to be in trouble. Travis does not know what to do, as the riverside is bordering on impassable and he knows of know trail. Roy must be dead by now or has somehow ended up in an eddy and is too far away to be helped. Travis chases Roy's boat to shore, and while he does this sees Roy on a rock in the next eddy downstream, close to shore, having caught the same eddy as his boat and then floating down a shoot into the next eddy. Immensely relieved, Travis helps Roy get his boat to shore and then together hiked upstream, Travis hurrying ahead to make sure Dan does not run the drop blindly.
Travis ferries across to Dan, consults with Chinese, recommends that he and
Dan do not continue and that if they do he will sneak everything and portage some drops. Dan feels comfortable continuing, and Travis agrees, as long as they meet up in eddy at bottom of first drop, which is approximately fifty yards long. Dan follows him down sneak, and misses eddy. Travis paddles through shoot to next eddy in time to see Dan missing his roll on a cushion in front of a large rock pile, some of which sieves out. To the left is a large eddy, to the right the main current which soon drops over a river wide ledge (safely runnable last year) followed by a long series of rapids with no catch all pool or eddy for many kilometers. Dan swims and washes around the right side of the sieve. Travis realizes that Dan has drowned, and now knowing that a trail exists through the jungle on the side of the river, promptly shoulders his boat in hopes of keeping track for a few moments of the body. After a minute or so he has another view of the river and sees what appears to be Dan's helmet sitting by itself on the other side of a rock halfway down the rock pile, well across the eddy into the river. Dumbfounded, as Dan shakily stands up a little he realizes that the body is still attached to the helmet. Fortunately, Tony is on the shore with a rope and pulls Dan to safety. Travis heads upstream to walk across the bridge at the put-in, where Dan had gone earlier. Feng Chun and bus had left to chase Dan's boat and camera, which were recirculating in a low head dam 11 km downstream. Dan's camera was dry. Tony, Chen, and Travis hitchhiked downstream with Travis's boat in hopes of being able to help reach the found boat, but locals with grappeling hooks beat them to the task.
The Qing Yi Jiang is not a river to be toyed with. It is muddy, part rain and part glacial fed, and there are few eddies at any flow that would aid a swimmer. The riverbed consists of large round highly polished boulders, the source rock either high grade metamorphic or intrusive in composition. One must like big water and be able to keep trying to roll until they drown in their boat, because they will surely drown swimming in this river at any but the most optimal flows. In 2003 Dan, Clive and Travis successfully negotiated this section at what must have been optimal flows and labeled it a classic; however, apparently it is not meant for anyone who is not well practiced in big volume whitewater, and not meant for any boater at the 2004 flows. Our decision to run in 2004 was a product of having few other options for a good paddle, and primarily, of making the classic road scout underestimation, which continued to plague us for the rest of the expedition.
Da Yu Xi (First Descent, 9/8/2004) 2004b
Location: Upstream from normal takeout of Qing Yi Jiang.
Put in: Est. 3 km up the road, at the base of a factory.
Take out: Confluence
Flow: 100-200 cfs.
Gradient: Average est. 90 ft/mile, last half km est. 200 ft/mile
Length: 3 km, 2 hours with one lap on the last rapid.
Difficulty: mostly 4, last rapid solid 5
Run Description: Dump truck shuttle. TV guy from a local station who'd heard of our catastrophe yesterday and wanted to see some action joined us. The local governor negotiated a cheap dump truck rental, 100 RMB as opposed to 200 RMB. Classic clear water creeking, paddles much bigger than it looks from road. We'd had 10 days of rain preceding our paddle so it might be hard to catch reliably, but if I recall correctly it had enough water to paddle in Aug/Sept. 2003. Apparently two dams are slated for construction in the next few years, one to catch silt and one for power, which would seem improbable except for the factory (perhaps coal smelt) upstream belching smoke reminding us of the fact that after all, this is China, where electricity production is first and efficiency or quality construction is non existent. We shared our thoughts tactfully with the TV man.
Lata He (First Descent, 9/9/2004) 2004c
Location: 2nd Large tributary on the right upstream from Tian Quan. Power generation station on mainstream at base and coal smelt on tributary.
Put in: 5-6 km upstream of Tian Quan He confluence at small foot bridge in flat section. About half a km upstream of a rather distinct pinch drop.
Take out: Confluence.
Flow: 300-350 cfs.
Gradient: 100-250 ft/mile
Length: 5-6 km, first descent was a full six and a half hours.
Difficulty: Class 5, 5+ (P)
Run Description: Dump truck shuttle, managed to con a ride for free by pulling the "explorer" trick. Pink and grey smooth granite boulder river bed with an ample amount of clear green water making for a beautiful day on the water. Distinct pool drop rapids with many 3-5 foot boofs and a few taller slides and drops. Roy broke his paddle (one of our spares, as the last one had gone missing) in the first drop and swam. Everyone portaged twice and we scouted nearly everything. About the time people's energy started to fade Travis decided to paddle interesting rapid near the bottom which others had opted out on, discovering he should have opted out too. Chen and Feng walked along as we paddled, then Feng left to organize lunch for us which we'd skipped. He left about 3 hours before we finished, alerting the town of our presence, so as we negotiated the last most difficult section of white water we had a good view of everybody waiting for us on the bridge at the takeout. I have heard from local mountain climbers that there are other rivers of this quality in the area.
Leng Shui He - Laba He tributary (First Descent, 9/10/04) 2004d
Location: Laba He Nature Preserve (north branch of Tian Quan He)
Put in: 3 km downstream from hotel and restaurant, which are at the head of the road. Those three km are too steep and away from the road, where the road joins the river there is a small unmarked trail that leads to a gravel bar above the first rapid.
Take out: 3-4 km downstream above a double drop where the river flattens out, 17 km upstream from main Tian Quan He.
Flow: Est. 900-1100 cfs
Gradient: 75 ft/mile
Length: 3 km
Difficulty: class 4
Run Description: Looks easy from the road, but from the river it is at least solid 4 and given the unknown factor it felt harder on the first descent. Distinct drops with achievable eddies and no memorable hidden dangers, but big water feel and the consequences of a swim would be very serious. Clear blue water with lush vegetation. We saw an incredibly colorful snake at one scout, seemed like it ought to be poisonous. That rapid was perhaps the most memorable, a big steep constriction wave train followed by a nearly river wide fan rock that one must race towards as fast as possible and fly off of in order to air over the hole behind it.
Zhe Duo He, South Tributary (attempted first descent, 9/11/04) 2004e
Paddlers: Travis, Roy, Dan9/11/04
Location: From Moxi, drive over the pass and down towards Kanding
Put in: Half km above hotsprings at branch road, N 29 58.460', E 101 57.418', Elevation 2884
Take out: Not achieved, we labeled this run too dangerous for our group and walked out after one km, from the second silt diversion pond after the bridge.
Planned T.O.: where main road crosses Zhe Duo He about 3 km downstream from hotsprings. N 30 00.135', E 101 57.049', Elevation: 2725 m.
Flow: Est. 600 cfs
Length: 3-3.5 km
Difficulty: Class 4 moves but nonstop so Class 5, with no room for error.
Run Description: Like paddling down an inclined plane with obstacles on it. Many fan rocks, holes and pour overs, extremely shallow river bed. Don't tip over and don't miss your eddy, when in doubt paddle hard downstream and you can bounce over most everything. Clear water, if you decide to opt for the hotsprings and happen to be there on a weekend be prepared to throw a few happy local kids into the pool. Watch out, if you continue past where we left off the flow doubles where the main Zhe Duo He joins in.
Zhe Duo He (2nd Descent, 9/12/04) 2004f
Paddlers: Brian, Travis, Roy, Tony
Location: nr. Zhe Duo Shan
Put in: Same as last year.
Take out: Same as last year.
Flow: Double last year, darned high.
Length: 3 km.
Difficulty: Class 4, then class 5
Run Description: Few eddies, nearly mandatory to run some class 5 drops blind just from nonstop nature. Another inclined plane run, this one folks estimated to be class 3-4 flowing through a meadow. Roy missed his roll and ran the first of the two hard drops at the takeout blind after momentarily pinning on a rock at the top, while the other guys called it quits there. Roy and Travis paddled the next rapid after carefully scouting our takeout eddy, however after getting worked in a hole Roy missed the takeout eddy too, fortunately making our plan B eddy. Clear cold water, small to large granite boulders, and again a shallower river bed.
Luchu First Descent (Class 3, Chen's First Time on moving water) 2004g
Paddlers: Travis, Roy, Tony, Feng Chun, Chen Hao (in inflatable kayak)
Location: South of Xinduqiao
Put in: Bridge where road to north is on east side, to south on west side.
Take out: 3-4 km later, at swinging bridge above class 3 rapid.
Flow: 2000 cfs
Length: 3-4 km
Difficulty: class 2-3
Run Description: Ducky run with Feng Chun and Chen Hao…as usual, in retrospect, pushing the limits of what’s intelligent.
Luchu tributary from Juilong pass (Second Descent) 2004h
Paddlers: Travis, Roy
Location: same as last year
Put in: Bottom of class 5 (6 at high flows)
Take out: Above confluence with main Luchu.
Flow: 1500 cfs
Length: 3 km? 20 minutes
Difficulty: Class 3 w/some wood, very consistent and fast in nature.
Run Description: Much higher than last year, no place to mess around. Cold water and no eddies.
Next day: Beautiful drive to Danba, view of Yalashan, gorgeous old woman on the pass that Dan connected with, cheese harvesting in the sun, kids, one US dollar.
Maoniu He at proper level has 3 difficult runs, an upper near the pass (hotsprings to class 6), a middle run, (2-3 km above bridge to class 6 with possible portages?) And then the lower standard class 4-5 ending at Dadu, as well as the northern tributary (but road access short).
Maoniu He (Second Descent) 2004i
Paddlers: Dan and Tony
Location: put in below dam below class 6, around 6-8 km above Danba
Dajing Chuan (scouted only)
Put-in: 2064 m, N 31 14.391, E102 00.355
Good class 3-4 bigwater, below that class 6 and a class 5.
A few tributaries with decent potential.
Upstream Dajing Chuan branches into Duke He (to west) and Soumu He (to east). Just south of the split flows through incredible granite gorge. Dam being built.
Road to east follows a smaller tributary, clear water, which is dammed upstream, then the road continues up to Markam, a standard dirty Chinese city. The river between the top of the reservoir and Markam is class 2, then upstream has a classic section to be commercial rafted (just like Grizzly Creek) but not enough tourists in the area to justify it.
Upstream is grassland, flat and probably lacking in whitewater, but spectacular scenery.
The series of tributaries that join together around the town of Hei Shui to form the Hei Shui river probably have some good potential for paddling, however the area is in general less spectacular and inviting than the Wolong valley, running a parallel track two drainages south. When we were in the area the water was too low.
We paddled one section higher up the valley (2004j), putting in about 21 km upstream from Hei Shui where the river drops into a gorge away from the road. The section was great, cold water splashy class three with a few marked drops. In general the run was filled in with gravel, reflecting the general soft nature of the local geology. As opposed to the higher grade metamorphics and intrusives of the Wolong valley, the local geology here is dominated by low grade metamorphics and uplifted sedimentary rocks. Lower in the valley, below the town of Hei Shui, the river down cuts through its old bed left over from times of higher flows and more deposition. However, the river is steep and big, and in spite of its muddy water would undoubtably make for a great class 3-4 paddle.
The best thing about our experience in the Hei Shui valley was that very few Lao Wai had previously visited, which was Chen's justification for taking us there. People in the street pointed and smiled, the girls in the restaurant sang us a song, and when we paddled through town with Chen and Feng Chun, a nice 3+ paddle, people were thrilled. Thank goodness Feng and Chen pulled it off again, we certainly pushed them to the limits of their abilities.
Dan and I made another attempt to woo the local women, sitting around the restaurant for an hour or two after everyone had left trying to convince them to dance by offering to sing (Old Macdonald's), then they insisted we dance first and so we jumped around for a while as long as they promised to dance with us later. They didn't stick to their end of the deal, apparently I need to work on my persuasive abilities in Chinese.
Chibu Su (first descent) 2004k
Paddlers: Travis, Roy, Dan, Tony
Location: Tributary of Hei Shui He
Put in: 11 km above road
Take out: Confluence
Check Point: N 31 53.813, E103 25.994, 1825 m
Flow: 900 cfs
Length: 11 km
Difficulty: Class 3 w/some wood, very consistent and fast in nature.
Run Description: Dump truck shuttle (10 RMB/km), Class 3 w/one steep section, read and run class 4, and a runnable dam. Low grade metamorphic (slate) w/some high grade boulders, green water. Nice paddle. Road continues another 20 km upstream, maybe near end of road steepens up. Dan and I rescued a burlap sack floating down the river completely full of peppers, women on the bank loved us for this.
At last. Stayed in cheap hostel lower down the valley, and met up with Li Hong, a local photographer who accompanied us in September 2004. Visited Panda preserve in the morning and then jumped on a few km downstream after posing with some beer bottles and banners for some photos that Li Hong took. See "Red Panda Falls" link at the end of the page for pics of this run in 2010.
Pitiao He (1st Descent, some 2nd Descent) 2004l
Paddlers: Roy, Travis, Dan, sometimes Tony
Location: Below Panda preserve
Put in: 2 km below preserve, small pull out on the right.
Take out: Confluence
Flow: 1000-2000 cfs
Gradient: high considering flow
Length: 11 km? Portaged a minimum of three kilometers
Difficulty: hard, minimum 2 jungle portages.
Run Description: Big volume, deep blue water, black slate boulders and ledge drops. Pool Drop!!! First drops fun, no problem, but we soon found ourselves forced to climb up a steep jungly slope to rope our boats out due to a nasty long class 6. Tony had wisely bailed earlier. We walked along the road until we found an easy way down, maybe a little less than one kilometer, and then upon looking upstream saw around the corner what looked to be a river wide ten foot ledge drop. Who knows what else lay hidden, must return. I ran a few more drops, which Roy and Dan portaged, then we road portaged the class 6 after the bridge until the restaurant (1.5 km or so). After that, I'd promised Roy and Dan a great run with several fun class 5s, all pool-drop. They portaged all but one which only Dan ran, I portaged one section of the first one. Mistake on my part, the water was slightly higher. This run would be worth looking at when the water is lower, it might be quite interesting.
Pitiao He (1st/2nd Descent) 2004m
Paddlers: Roy and Travis
Location: lower Pitiao He
Put in: Below boulder-cluster about one kilometer.
Take out: Bridge shortly above confluence with Min Jiang
Flow: 600-1000 cfs
Length: less than 5 km, but we portaged a significant amount.
Difficulty: CLASSIC class 5-5+ pool drop
Run Description: The night before Roy and Feng Chun and I had scouted this section. It had about 200 cfs. The next morning as we drove down, extremely early in order to get to Chengdu on time, the river had minimum 600 cfs, probably closer to 1000 cfs. We put in below our original plan. Roy swam in the first major drop (which I didn't know until I got to the bottom), and then decided the next drops were a little challenging and portaged. I followed. The drops all had great lines, with nasty holes in a few places but overall classic good fun technical pushy lines with pools at the bottom. We walked for a kilometer or so then got back in above the section that Colin and I had completed after the Yarlung Tsangpo trip of 2002. Possible the water was slightly higher
Be careful of dam releases on the Pitiao He. There are two dams, one directly above this run, (with two bridges right above it), then another further upstream below Gengda (where the hostel is) At certain times they both shut down the lower stretches (the stretch below the dam is very similar in makeup to the lower) perhaps sometimes the lower runs without the upper or visa versa, have not seen that happen. Three out of five times the lower has been shut down (in September 2003 trip, first evening on September 2004 trip, and October 2004 trip). Open in June and then last morning of Sept 2004 trip.
Red Panda Falls (Wolong Valley, 2010)
Return to Western Sichuan First Descents
Info about the rivers of Tibet and western China