Located near Lijiang City between Jade Dragon Snow Mountain and Haba Mountain, the spectacular Tiger Leaping Gorge is the world's deepest river canyon. The 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) long gorge was formed by the Yangtze River crashing through the area, which has some of the roughest and most spectacular white water rapids in the world. Visitors looking into the gorge from the edge of the gorge can see the Yangtze River with its rapids over 299 meters (700 feet) below. The gorge got its name from a legend that says in Dynastic China, a tiger attempting to escape a hunter jumped across the gorge at the narrowest point, which is 25 meters wide. The stone the tiger used to leap across the gorge can still be seen.
The Tiger Leaping Gorge did not officially open until 1993, but had been attracting visitors for centuries. Foreign visitors did not start to explore the area until the 1980s. Tiger Leaping Gorge is naturally divided into three sections. The first section is the narrowest section and considered the mouth of the gorge. In the middle of the River is a large stone that is positioned at the narrowest section of the gorge. It is this stone that the legend says the tiger used to leap across the gorge. In the middle section of the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the river drops 100 meters (300 feet) and it picks up amazing speed. The water crashes into large rocks and forms foaming whirlpools and high waves. It is an amazing example of nature's fury. The cliffs along the third section of the Tiger Leaping Gorge are much steeper than the first section. In this section, the river twists and turns slamming into sharp rock and sending white foam flying. Hiking the length of the gorge is possible and has two main hiking trails. The High Road is well maintained and clearly marked. It is used every day by the local Naxi people. The High Road is 22 kilometers (14 miles) long and offers visitors amazing and varied scenery. It passes several waterfalls and there are several guesthouses scattered along it. The newly paved Lower Road, which is 195 kilometers (121 miles) long, was until recently a simple mule track. The views from this road are quite different than those on the High Road, but no less spectacular. The road follows the Yangtze River and is deep down in the gorge so visitors can not only see the raging river carving out the rocks, but get a close up look at what it has already created. Both hiking trails offer stunning scenery making it virtually impossible to not take amazing photographs.
The local Naxi ethnic minority group has been living around the gorge for centuries. They live in small villages scattered around the area. The Naxi ethnic minority people are famous for their written language which is called Dongba Characters and is the only hieroglyphic language in the world still in use today. The Naxi people love to sing and dance and their music can often be heard echoing through the canyon.
The Yangtze River in the Tiger Leaping Gorge is not navigable. Only one known successful attempt to sail through the gorge has been made. It was made by a group attempting to float down the entire length of the Yangtze River, beginning at its source, the Gelandandong Glacial Lake.
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