Map of Western China
All maps in this history and guide are modified from
Rand McNally's Deluxe New Millenium World Atlas unless otherwise noted.

A History of First Descents in Western China

Expeditions that qualify for listing as first descents are limited to whitewater stretches of rivers which have not previously been run by anyone, including local Chinese residents. East of central Sichuan, the Chinese have used most rivers for transportation for centuries, including mild whitewater stretches such as the Min River north of Chengdu and the Yangtze north of Kunming, Yunnan. Boating these stretches does not qualify, even though there is no public record of the first descent.

Many rivers in western China have been surveyed by Chinese geologists in motorized Zodiacs for potential dam sites since the mid 1980's, but they portaged most or all of the rapids. These stretches qualify for listing as first descents if the rapids are run, except for those which cannot be safely run. Go to the individual river page for a link to the first descent submittal form and for information about contacting the webmaster.

Regional Overview


Yangzte (Jinsha or Tongtien)

Yalong (largest Yangtze tributary in western Sichuan)

Other tributaries of the Yangtze in Western Sichuan

Mekong (Lancang or Za)

Salween (Nu or Nag)

Dulong Jiang (Irawaddy headwaters)

Yarlung Tsangpo (Bramaputra headwaters)

Phung (Kosi headwaters, near Mt. Everest)

Indus and Sutlej headwaters

Rivers of Xinjiang

More info about rivers in China

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