When the flow of water from the third largest river in the world goes through the Qutang Gorge in spring, the water can reach speeds of up to 32 km/h. Because the gorge is so narrow and steep – the cliffs on either side have twice the height of the Eiffel Tower and are less than 100 meters from one another – water levels can rise by 50 meters above average.
Qutang is just one of the three gorges that span over a distance of 190 kilometers, half way through the total length of the Yangtze River which is 6300 kilometers. In order to stop advancing ships and to collect taxes, iron poles were drilled into the cliff faces to which heavy chains were attached. This off course was done in ages past, when china was divided into several nations.
The second one is the picturesque Wu Gorge with a total length of 40 kilometers. One either side there are a series of peaks which according to legend, were 12 fairies sent by the Sky Goddess to help carve the gorge here. In reality however, these are some limestone columns which through erosion have gained some female figures.
The third gorge, the Xiling, with a length of 75 kilometers was always believed to be the most dangerous of the three, being filled with narrow passageways, fast currents and swirls. Crossing this part of the river has always been a dangerous affair. Back in the day small sail boats had to be pulled with ropes by over 400 people on the banks in order to ensure a safe passage. This doesn’t mean that accidents weren’t a common sight in this part of the river.
In the 1950’s the rocks and boulders in the middle of the river were blown up with dynamite which calmed the waters down significantly. Today, instead of those slender sail ships, the rivers is crossed by motorized ships and ferries.
The Three Gorges Dam which was completed in 2012 is the largest in the world and has transformed these three gorges into one large reservoir. This is the largest concrete building in the world capable of harnessing the tremendous energy generated by the Yangtze River. This dam is so huge, it even slowed the Earth’s rotation by .06 microseconds and shifted the pole’s position by 2 cm (.8 inches).