Salween Headwaters in Tibet

Photo by Pete Winn

Steve Curry attempted to raft the Salween headwaters from Nagqu to Biru in 1995, but completion and filling of the Chalong dam about 100 miles upstream from Biru resulted in a dry river bed. Earth Science Expeditions ran the stretch from about 30 miles below Nagqu (31.405271, 92.036649) to Biru (31.484089, 93.646213) in 2000, portaging around the dam with the help of a truck provided by the dam manager. The average gradient is 15'/mile; flows began at 2500 cfs and swelled to about 20,000 due to heavy rains during the August expedition. The 150 mile, Class 2-3 stretch is characterized by abundant wildlife, several Tibetan monasteries and villages, and numerous beautiful side streams.

The 100 mile stretch from the Chalong Dam (31.454011, 92.331361) to Biru would have made a great commercial "semi-wilderness" run, but over the past five years the Chinese have replaced the original dirt road to Biru with a new, paved road that parallels the river for much of this distance.

Phil Wegenor Kantor produced a video of the expedition. Also see the following:

By River Through a Wounded Land by Gordon Bare

First Descent of the Nu River by Phillip Wegener Kantor

Liu Li's Journal

First Descent of the Salween Headwaters by Pete Winn

Geology and Geography of this stretch

Return to Salween First Descents.
More info about rivers of Tibet and western China