Yong Bao Gorge of the Mekong in Yunnan

Pete Winn, holding American flag, and Han Chunyu, holding Chinese flag,
at the put-in of the first descent of the Mekong in China. Photo by David Hettig.


This is the expedition that Earth Science Expeditions orginally planned for October 1989 but was forced to cancel due to the Tienanmen Square incident that summer. After running the Yangbi the year before, they knew about the Man Wan reservoir and that there were motorized ferries available to tow them from the head of the reservoir to the dam (24 37 19N, 100 26 55E).

The put-in was located at 25 28 37N, 99 20 27E, 4100', just upstream of the bridge between Yong Ping and Baoshan. The October weather was fair due to the low latitude. The flow in 1995 was about 25,000 cfs and the average gradient was 8' per mile for the 100 mile, 10 day stretch - comparable to the Colorado in the Grand Canyon. The 8 person team used two 16' catarafts and two kayaks and encountered three bigwater Class 5 rapids within a mile and one half mile long Class 5 (Dragon's Teeth) in addition to numerous Class 3-4 rapids. Each cat flipped once (fortunately at different rapids). ESE returned in 1996 to for a second descent at about 30,000 cfs.

In 1994 and 1995, the ESE teams had seen a drill rig in the river just below the confluence of with the Yangbi (24 43 00N, 100 05 43N, at the head of the Man Wan reservoir), and later learned the Chinese were planning to construct the highest dam in the world at this site, Xiawan, over 1000'. In 2006, Last Descents River Expeditions ran a "last" descent of this section before completion of the dam prevents future trips down this classic section of big whitewater.

See Pete Winn's journal, First Descent of the Yong Bao Gorge of the Mekong, Steve Van Beek's article, Dragon's Teeth, Fred St Goar's article, Thrills and Danger During First Expedition of the Lancang and Lori Golzi's article Down the Mighty Mekong (1996).

Geology of the Mekong in SW Yunnan

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