Sanjiangyuan, China’s First River-Focused National Park
In 2007, Travis Winn invited a team to join him guiding raft trips on the Great Bend of the Yangtze River. The company, Last Descents River Expeditions (LDRE), has been operating multi-day rafting trips all over western China since. Last Descents’ priority has been to share China’s Mother Rivers with her children in an attempt to increase awareness of their beauty and potential outside of hydro and development.
The Salween River (Nu Jiang) flows out of the southeast corner of Tibet, tumbling through immense gorges, nearly side-by side with the also immense Mekong (Lancang or Daqu) and Yangtze (Jinsha) rivers (jiang) in what is called the Three Parallel Rivers region. There are thousands of miles of deep gorges with incredibly good whitewater rafting and kayaking stretches.
The team runs two main seasons. The Salween Season takes place in January and February with special focus on the development of a kids’ kayak club, family recreation and building river-running skills. Mekong or Daqu Season is in June and July on the Tibetan Plateau. The banks of the Daqu are festooned with “mani,” Tibetan Buddhist prayer carvings and paintings. The landscape is similar to the red rocks of Arizona, and this is the only zone in China where both snow leopard and standard yellow leopard coexist.
In 2016, LDRE was contracted by Chinese government to consult on the design and implementation of a new national park model centered around the headwaters of the Mekong, Yangtze and Yellow Rivers in the Qinghi province. To be named ‘Sanjiangyuan’ or, source of the three rivers, this will be China’s first river-focused national park. The Daqu (Mekong) is understood to be the primary corridor of visitation with rafting trips as the primary tool for access. This is a major move forwards for the future of these rivers systems, and is hopefully indicative of a shifting attitude towards China’s natural resources.
In December 2017, LDRE will co-host a Salween River Festival, inviting rafters and kayakers from all over the world to participate in competitions, recreational paddling, film-festival and of course celebration of the river and river culture. More information will be released shortly!
Report:Adam Mills Elliott /Photo: Anna Bruno