Tibet Travel Guide

Yarlung River

China Travel Guide - Yarlung RiverThe Yarlung Zangbo or Yarlung River, or Yalu Zangbu River, or Yarlung Tsangpo (alternative transcription), Yarlung Zangbo Jiang (officially) originates upstream from the South Tibet Valley and Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, in Tibet. It then passes through the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, where it is known as the Dihang. Downstream from Arunachal Pradesh the river becomes wider and at this point is called the Brahmaputra River. The Brahmaputra has not been able to meet the sea. From Assam (India) the river has entered Bangladesh at Ramnabazar point. From there till about 200 years ago it used to flow eastward and joined Megna River near Bhairavbazar. This old channel has been gradually dying now. At present the main channel of the river is called Jamuna River, which follows southward to meet Ganges known in Bangladesh as the Padma.

It flows in the world's largest and deepest canyon, Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon. Further, it is the world's highest river.


China Travel Guide - Yarlung RiverThe Yarlung Zangbo River is the highest major river in the world. Its longest tributary is the Nyang River. In Tibet the river flows through the South Tibet Valley, which is approximately 1200 kilometres long and 300 kilometres wide. The valley descends from 4500 metres above sea level to 3000 metres. As it descends, the surrounding vegetation changes from cold desert to arid steppe to deciduous scrub vegetation. It ultimately transitions into a conifer and rhododendron forest. The tree line is approximately 3,200 metres. Sedimentary sandstone rocks found near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa contain grains of magnetic minerals that record the Earth's alternating magnetic field current.

The Yarlung Zangbo Grand Canyon, formed by a horse-shoe bend in the river where it flows around Namcha Barwa, is the deepest, and possibly longest canyon in the world.The river has been a challenge to whitewater kayakers because of the extreme conditions of the river.

The Yarlung Zangbo River has three major waterfalls. The largest waterfall of the river, the "Hidden Falls", was not publicized in the West until 1998, when its sighting by Westerners was briefly hailed as a "discovery." They were even portrayed as the discovery of the great falls which had been the topic of stories told to early Westerners by Tibetan hunters and Buddhist monks, but which had never been found by Western explorers at the time. Chinese authorities protested, however, saying that Chinese geographers, who had explored the gorge since 1973, had already taken pictures of the falls in 1987 from a helicopter.

Kayak explorationChina Travel Guide - Yarlung River

Since the 1990s the Yarlung Zangbo River has been the destination of a number of teams that engage in exploration and whitewater kayaking. The river has been called the "Everest of Rivers" because of the extreme conditions of the river. The first attempt to run was made in 1993 by a Japanese group who lost one member on the river.

In October 1998, a kayaking expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society attempted to navigate the Zangbo Gorge. Troubled by unanticipated high water levels, the expedition ended in tragedy when expert kayaker Doug Gordon lost his life.

In January-February, 2002, an international group consisting of Scott Lindgren, Steve Fisher, Mike Abbott, Allan Ellard, Dustin Knapp, and Johnnie and Willie Kern, completed the first descent of the upper Zangbo gorge section.

Shangri La River Expeditions has a fairly complete description of the history of first descents of the Yarlong Tsangpo and its major tribuaries.

For more details, please visit China Tours and China Travel Information.

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