The last unexplored stretch of the Salween River, one of China’s “great rivers”, was successfully run by kayakers Jed Weingarten and Willie Kern over the course of six days this past week.
From March 11th through 16th 2008, the small, light, and fast team successfully descended a one hundred mile gorge on the upper Salween (Nujiang).
This section had eluded and discouraged exploration due to its remote location and its daunting geography. Rocks, water, and gradient come together here to form some of the most intense whitewater these two seasoned paddlers have experienced in their previous explorations.
The river drops precipitously over 1350ft, with the concentration of that pitch in a relatively short 25 miles. In that distance, the Salween is pinched between the greater ranges of the Nyenchen Tanglha and Himalaya to the west and the countless high peaks of the Hengduan ranges to the east.
Uncooperative weather in the steeper, lower section of the canyon further challenged the team with slippery rock under foot and a healthy peppering of rock fall from above.
This run will serve as a milestone in the history of river running. The great rivers at the eastern end of the Himalaya- the Salween, the Mekong, and the Yangtze– are not only some of the most powerful and challenging rivers anywhere, they represent the front line in the ongoing and ever intensifying referendum on hydro development in China’s south and western provinces.
There is no free flowing section of river in China that is not under scrutiny or has been spared in China’s ongoing efforts to fill its energy deficit.
Read more on the Salween watch web site.