Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge


Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge, Tibet
6,900 meters/19,715 feet
The Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge in Tibet China is now considered to be the deepest and largest canyon in the world. The notion of Shangri-La in the James Hilton book "Lost Horizon" is said that have been inspired by the canyon's remarkable beauty, remoteness and mystique. 

In 1996 the Guinness Book of Records recognized Richard D. Fisher as the first to identify the canyon as the earth's deepest.

Photo courtesy of CITS Tibet Travel
Activities and Attractions
For years Chinese authorities did not grant access to this mystical canyon. In 1998 the gorge was officially designated a national park.

Permits for foreigners are extremely expensive and difficult to obtain. In recent years there have been several kayak expeditions that have engaged in exploration and whitewater travel on the Yarlung Tsangpo River. The river has been called the "Everest of Rivers" due to the intense conditions. It has been published that "the best kayakers on earth can only run very short class 6 sections of this canyon under the very best conditions.

Another significant gorge in the area is the Tiger Leaping Gorge at a depth of 12,010 feet. It was named after a mythical tiger that is said to have jumped across this canyon. This gorge is about a hundred feet across at its narrowest point. According to Richard Fisher, close to the town of Lijiang you can begin one of the most scenic backpacking trips in China.

Geography
Yarlung is approximately three times as deep and five times as long as the Grand Canyon. The Yarlung Tsangpo Gorge contains at least six very different and unique parts - and many have yet to be explored. In 1992 Outside Magazine identified this gorge as "one of the last great unexplored areas on earth." In 1993 Richard Fisher and his expedition performed the difficult task measuring the Yarlung Tsangpo. High peaks on either side made accurate measurements hard to manage but the result was that the valley is 16,650 feet deep near the Tibet-India border. The peaks Namche Barwa (25,436 feet) and Jala Peri (23,891feet) are 13-miles apart and the Yarlung Tsangpo River flows between them at an elevation of 8,000 feet.

The largest waterfall on the river "Zangbo Badong" or Hidden Falls of the Tsangpo Gorge was not reached by explorers until 1998. Badong is estimated to be 108-feet. The falls are considered a sacred site by Tibetan Buddhists. Chinese National Geography in 2005 listed Zangbo Badong waterfalls as the most beautiful in China. The middle and lower gorges contain possibly the largest virgin rainforest left on the planet. The endangered giant oak trees are among the largest on earth.

The Tsangpo Gorge is carved from one of the earth's largest rivers. It is vast and diverse. The canyon has a length of about 150-miles. The gorge bends around Mount Namcha Barwa (7,756 m) and cuts its way through the eastern Himalaya range. Its waters drop from 3,000 m near Pe to about 300 m at the end of the gorge. here the river enters India and eventually becomes the Brahmaputra.

Another significant gorge in the area is the Tiger Leaping Gorge at a depth of 12,010-ft. It was named after a mythical tiger that is said to have jumped across this canyon. This gorge is about a hundred feet across at its narrowest point. According to Richard Fisher, close to the town of Lijiang you can begin one of the most scenic backpacking trips in China.

Ecology
The world's deepest canyon "holds the most diverse wildlife and forests in the Himalaya." A Chinese official site boasts the existence of 3,700 plant species. It's been called the last "pure land of the world." It's a place where lush, virgin forests lay untouched, hosting a diverse ecosystem that includes some of the world's most endangered species like snow leopards, antelope-like goats and different types of mountain sheep. At least that's what American explorer Richard D. Fisher reported after emerging from the Yarlung Tsangpo Canyon in Tibet in the 1990s.

The rare takin (goat-antelope) is one of the animals hunted by local tribes.

Its climate ranges from subtropic to Arctic.


People
Tibetan tribes have lived in this mystic canyon for at least 2,000 years. Its remoteness allowed escape from political and religious conflicts. It is rumored that a pygmy tribe may be living in the lower and middle canyons.

To the Tibetans, the Great Bend region is known as Pema Koe, a very sacred location blessed by Guru Rinpoche, Padmasambhava, the Indian Buddhist yogin credited with firmly establishing Buddhism in Tibet.


Future
The hardwood rainforest is protected by the incredibly steep terrain and mountain walls, however there are government plans and studies for a major dam to harness hydroelectric power and to divert water to other areas of China.

The size of the dam in the Tsangpo Gorge would exceed that of the Three Gorges.