Cruise Through The Three Gorges On The Yangtze River
We cruised for several days along the Three Gorges on the Yangtze with Viking Cruises. Along the way, we passed through such beautiful scenery as we traversed the gorges. We did first one dam and lock and then headed for the massive dam. The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder on the Yangtze River. It was fascinating to see during the day. And our nighttime transit was beautiful. If you don’t cruise the Yangtze, make sure to visit the Three Gorges Dam.
Going Through The Gerzhouba Lock
Early in the morning, we hit the first lock as we cruised the Three Gorges. We went under the red bridge towards the dam and lock. The Gerzhouba Dam was built in 1971 as a bit of a test before the Three Gorges Dam was built. The dam is about 150 feet high and includes three single step locks. The lessons learned as the Gerzhouba dam and locks were built and operated ensured that the Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder.
The big day cruise ship crowded with locals went up the lock first. We waited and sat first in line for the next lock trip. As we waited by the closed gate, we finally saw the day tour ship rise above the height of the gate doors. Once they had left, the water drained out of the lock.
When the lock door opened people were crowded on our front deck as we slowly moved in. With the lock doors closed behind us, we quickly went up in the lock. At the top we looked back over the lock.
When we hit the top of the lock we could see the city of Yichang in front of us. We then continued to cruise the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River until we got to the Three Gorges Dam.
A Little About The Three Gorges Dam
One of the most important stops when you travel through the Three Gorges on the Yangtze River is at the Three Gorges Dam. Flooding on the lower reaches of the Yangtze River used to be a major problem before the completion of the Three Gorges Dam in 2008. The flooding in 1931 alone resulted in about 145,000 dying.
The dam stood over 60 stories high, just a little shorter than the Hoover Dam. While not the biggest dam, it is the largest producer of electric power in the world. The water falls about 240 feet to turn 32 massive turbines. Each turbine generated energy equivalent to that produced by a small nuclear power plant. Hydro-electric power has reduced the use of coal power generation from over 70% to between 50 and 60% today. The dam is so big that it can be seen from space The Chinese started to think about putting a large dam on the Yangtze as early as 1918. It took many years before it would be started and then took about 17 years to be completed. It was no surprise that the Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder on the Yangtze River.
The dam had multiple parts. The main dam included 22 spillways to bleed off the water. Sluice gates were used to allow some of the silt in the river to continue downstream for use in farming. There is still a large backup of silt at the dam. While some silt was removed through dredging, at this point, there is no real solution on how to remove the silt that is piling up at the dam.
There is no question that the Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder on the Yangtze River. But despite the value that the dam brought, it was at the centre of controversy. Over a million people were displaced when over 150,000 acres were flooded. They lost 13 cities, 140 towns, 4,500 villages and 1,300 archaeological sites. People were compensated with money and/or new housing. As we travelled along the Three Gorges we saw many of the new towns and cities that were built.
The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder on the Yangtze River. And this Civil Engineer couldn’t wait to explore it!
Arriving At The Three Gorges Dam
When we hit the small town of Sandouping, we left the ship to visit the Three Gorges Dam. And fought our way through aggressive locals with souvenirs to sell. One woman targeted David. When he didn’t buy on the first walk through, she waited for him when the bus returned. Despite her persistence, we still were not buying t-shirts!
We boarded local tour buses and headed towards the Three Gorges Dam. On the bus ride, we got a view of the five-step locks from the bottom. Before we cruised through the locks that night.
The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder on the Yangtze River. And nobody took security lightly. We could not walk along the top of the dam but only see it from afar. At the security checkpoint, we left the bus and went through a security check. We were warned not to take any kind of knife or other weapon on our visit of the Three Gorges Dam. No kites or drones were allowed. We saw the warning for “no drones” everywhere in China. Even on the safety card in the airplanes! The bus was also scanned before we re-boarded to go to the visitor’s centre.
Once we arrived at the visitor’s centre at the bottom, our local guide talked a little about the dam site. And explained what we would see on the tour. The model was a good reference for what we saw as we explored the Three Gorges Dam site.
From there we took a series of escalators up and up to the top above the dam and the locks. We were certainly glad there were escalators and we did not have to walk all the way up.
The View From The Tanziling Ridge Viewpoints
There was a great view when we got to the top. The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder and it was all laid out before us. At our first stop, we looked back to the five-step lock when we got to the top at the Tanziling Ridge viewpoints. That was the lock we would travel in later that night.
We wandered around the main level of the Tanziling Ridge viewpoint and got perspectives from different sides. In the centre was a higher observation platform. The bottom of the observation platform was decorated with scenes.
Of course we walked up to the top to get yet a better view around. It was a great spot for a panoramic view.
The path down had some stairs and a gentle set of ramps with several viewpoints along the way. From this perspective we got a good view of the boat elevator. If you were in a smaller boat (e.g. 3,000 tons instead of our 7,000 tons) you could take a ship elevator that reduced the total transit time to about 45 minutes. Our river cruise ship was too big for the elevator. We also saw the dam reservoir from behind.
The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder. And we were so glad we got to visit it on our cruise on the Yangtze River.
Going Through The Three Gorges Dam At Night
The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder and it looks magical when lit up at night. We cruised under the lighted bridge with the reflections in the water. In the distance we saw the dam bright on the horizon.
The actual lock portion of the dam consists of two channels – one going upstream and one going down. Each channel had 5 steps up. It took about 45 minutes through each of the steps. It is free for boats to cruise through the locks. But the locks ran to a well-controlled schedule. Luckily for us, passenger cruise ships got a little bit of priority. We all headed up on deck about 9pm when we were scheduled to start our trip through the Three Gorges Dam.
We were told that the locks would be lit up at night. When we made the final turn to line up with the locks, we were presented with an ever-changing light show up the five stages of the locks. We jockeyed for position and watched the light show and the boats as they left the lock coming down. Unfortunately we missed the lock that filled just as we got there. It was almost 10pm and it would be more than 45 minutes before our ship could go in. I was not waiting just to do another lock.
But David woke up at 1pm. And instead of going back to sleep he headed out on deck. He stood alone on the deck while the ship went through lock 4 and 5. He caught one last view as the ship pulled out of the last lock.
It was so great to go through the locks at the Three Gorges Dam on our cruise on the Yangtze River .
Don’t Miss A Chance To Explore The Three Gorges On The Yangtze River
The Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder. And we were so glad we got to explore the dam and the locks. The night transit added another great experience on our cruise of the Yangtze River with Viking Cruises.
If you are not doing a cruise on the Yangtze River, you can still visit the Three Gorges Dam. It is one of the key attractions along the Three Gorges waterway.
Did you know that the Three Gorges Dam was an engineering wonder? Is it something you would like to see?
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It looks that you had a great time in China and you have shared a nice post on your Yangtze river experience.
I am glad you enjoyed our post on our Yangtze River cruise. Linda
As I was reading this, I kept thinking over and over how fun this must’ve been for you with your engineering background! The pictures are absolutely amazing, and I love that David managed to catch those last locks! I’d definitely want to see this if/when I visit someday 🙂
Lynne, I am glad you enjoyed this. It really was a great demonstration of the modern might of the Chinese. Great to see at day and night! Linda
Very unusual and interesting to read and understand how the turbine system generates energy. Thanks for sharing something new!
Sydney, It was indeed very fascinating to see how this massive dam worked. Linda
WOW this is an amazing cruise. I’m amazed with the entrance gate/door, it feels like olden days. Probably coz the dams need to be protected. I would definitely go on this cruise when I got a chance to be back in China. Being an Engr. myself, i have to agree with you it’s engineering wonders indeed.
Farrah, The cruise was a great way to start our visit to China. The Three Gorges Dam was stunning. Glad another engineer would enjoy this! Loved that we actually got to go through the locks. Hope you get to visit one day. Linda
Thanks for the introduction of the area and there are quite a lot things to see. Hope it was not too crowded because everywhere in China is packed and hectic. @knycx.journeying
Kenny, It was great to see this part of China. I was surprised that China was less crowded than I expected! Maybe because we were travelling in late September? Linda
What a beautiful trip! The cruise followed by the bus to the dam itself seems like a really nice way to get up, close and personal with such an engineering feat! Also, I love the view from The Tanziling Ridge Viewpoints. The docks are so beautifully lit at night, wow!
Medha, The Three Gorges Dam certainly was far more impressive than I expected. Loved to get the panoramic views from on high. And the light show was the last treat before we passed through. Glad you enjoyed this view of the tour. Linda
What a wonderful trip! So perfect! I wish to go there someday. anyway, I want to say a big thank you for share everything so perfectly. I am sure Chinese citizens are justifiably proud of the project. I think this is a highly-recommended location to visit.
Roseline, We were very glad we got to visit the Three Gorges Dam. And share with others that may not get to visit. Linda
Very technically read for me but interesting at the same time. The dam looks like a great place to visit as well as the cruise to check out. Looks like a very tough project for the Chinese to build but must be very proud of themselves afterwards. We have a lot of locks on our canals back here in the UK but this is the next level up!
Danik, We have a fair number of locks in Canada too. But this was of such a bigger scale. More like the Hoover Dam in the U.S. But the Three Gorges adds the complexity of adding a 5 step lock. We did find it interesting. Linda
This was a very interesting read!
Leah, Glad you enjoyed it. Linda
Oh Wow I could only imagine what this must be like to visit in person! Was just watching a video of this the other day on youtube and how they were making comparisons to the hoover dam, and how they were both ahead of their times. Glad you enjoyed it 🙂
Jim, The Three Gorges Dam was a fascinating engineering visit. And then we got to go through the five step lock. Such a great day. Linda
I really love the pictures and how detailed you write! I’m not really good at writing guides but I really do want to learn from others. Your post makes me realise that writing something like this is not easy so thank you for sharing!
Trisha, I am glad you like the way the blog post was written. I like to share practical details and tips. Without writing a history guide. Linda