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The Scenic Yangtze River
by Paul Redd 11/1/2007

The “D” word invokes a lot of strong feelings among river lovers. And the Three Gorges Dam is the biggest damn Dam in the World. It has justifiably sparked heated debate worldwide. I will not attempt to join that debate, but to make a point about the Yangtze River that is sometimes lost in the fray.

The Three Gorges area was beautiful before the Dam, and it is beautiful after the Dam. Long stretches of this ‘reservoir’ are still positively Yosemite-esque. Granite cliffs and steep mountains still tower thousands of feet overhead. Yes, the impound decreased the depth of those canyons, but there are still plenty of breathtaking views. At it’s height, the water will be about 500 feet above sea level, amid granite cliffs and mountains up to 3,500 feet. There is still lots of what makes gorges gorgeous. In fact, whoever counted three Gorges needs more school, because I lost track at about 10.

The Yangzte is now flat water, but it still feels and looks more like a river than a lake. It is still in a long, deep, river canyon, narrower in many parts than Lake Natoma in Folsom. The impounding of water, has also flattened the lower reaches of several tributaries, making The Lesser Three Georges on the Danang, for example, much more accessible. The so-called ‘Lesser’ Three Gorges was at least as spectacular as the rest, with Yosemite quality canyons one after the other, and colonies of Monkeys frolicking on the shore.

Don’t get me wrong, this is no remote ‘wild and scenic’ river you can kayak. Especially after the Dam, it is a major commercial river, with coal and cargo freighters, cruise ships, and even tourist hydroplanes. There are cities with tens of millions of people above and below the 400 mile ‘reservoir’ and ‘villages’ of 100,000 along the way.

But, if you like what water and granite do together over thousands of years, add the Yangzte to your list of places to see. Get past the D, and see the BR - beautiful river, even if it is from a tourist cruise ship. Once there, you can get more than your fill of debate and information about the dam(n) project, the coal mines, the water and air quality, etc. - when you are not taking pictures that is.

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