Kayakers Find Big Water on China’s Salween River
Text filed April 28 by Kyle Dickman
Photographs by Adam Mills Elliott
It’s been a phenomenal week of kayaking for the Epicocity crew on southwest China’s Salween River. Himalayan snowmelt left the Salween swollen with rapids that were the biggest and most exciting we’ve paddled over the past two months.
Yesterday, we tested our abilities and comfort levels on 20 miles of huge Class IV whitewater before a rapid called Tiger Jumping Rock, where the river careened over a series of boulders and massive holes. After choosing a line, Trip Jennings paddled into the melee of Class V holes and waves. It was nerve-wracking to watch. If Trip missed his line, he could have been shoved beneath a deadly sieve or suffered a beat down in one of the rapid’s semi-truck sized holes.
As it was, he styled it. Adam Mills Elliott followed suit by paddling a big line through the midst of the maelstrom. Check out the photos of their runs.
Despite this world-class kayaking, incredible scenery, and unique cultural heritage, the Salween’s fate is undetermined. There is currently a proposal to construct a 13-dam cascade along a few hundred miles of the river.
The price of power and development in China is not cheap. The series of proposed dams would create reservoirs in the World Heritage Site and national park that we paddled through. They would also flood the homes of thousands of people whose lives and cultures are shaped around the waterway. The dams would also flood each of the rapids we paddled. In addition, there would be no chance to build a rafting or eco-tourism industry based around China’s last free-flowing river.
- Nat Geo Expeditions
But the river’s future is still uncertain. Official approval to begin construction on these dams has yet to be given.
Check out Last Descent River Expedition or the China Rivers Project to learn more about effective ways that you can get involved.
As for the Epicocity crew, we’re capping off our China expedition with some big-water kayaking on the Yangtze River before heading back to the states to prepare for the next round of expeditions this summer. Follow our progress at riversindemand.com.