Most of the civilizations are founded near rivers: Tigris and Euphrates, Ganges, and the Yangtze. The waters from them fuel the development of agriculture, among others. Three of the most important ones—Mekong, Yangtze, and Salween—pass through the Yunnan Province. This, however, is just half of what makes it remarkable. Although these three flow simultaneously, they never meet as they are parallel from one another.
The Three Parallel Rivers (三江并流) now form part of a greater scenic area, which covers more than 15 protected spots in the province. These are often gorges such as the famous Tiger Leaping Gorge and mountains including the Jade Snow Dragon Mountain. The flora and fauna is also another very interesting factor of the entire park. Because the area covered is so massive, the climate can be different in certain sections, and the flowers and animals that you see can greatly differ depending on which altitude you’re in. It has many karsts formations, cliffs, and hundreds of snow-capped mountains with glaciers.
Highest among them at 6,740 meters is the snow-capped Meili Mountain with its 10,000-year-old glaciers. Crystal-clear and sparkling, the ice makes its way very slowly from high on the peak down to the Mingyongcun Forest at 2,700 meters. It is considered to be the world’s finest monsoon glacier and remarkable for its descent to such a low altitude. For thousands of years, Tibetan people have regarded the Meili as a holy mountain. To this day they respect the need to obtain permission before going on the mountain.
The park is very famous among adventure seekers. Several tour agencies now offer white water rafting in specific parts of the river. Because the length can be very long, it’s possible to be in the waters for more than 3 hours. The waters can also become raging that falling off is highly possible. Hence, it’s essential to wear the right gear and do the activity with a group. You can also just stay on the sidelines and observe the gorges more safely.
First, among China’s 17 key bio-diversity areas, the site with its precious gene bank has been acclaimed as being of world class importance. Though accounting for less than 0.4 percent of the area of the country, the region plays host to more than 20 percent of the country’s most important plants and 25 percent of its animal species. Today the region is home to 77 animals under state-level protection including the Yunnan golden monkey, antelope, snow leopard, Bengali tiger and black-necked crane. It has 34 kinds of plants under state-level protection including the China fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata), the spinulose tree fern (Cyathea spinulosa) and the Chinese yew (Taxus chinensis).
The Three Parallel Rivers Park also gives you an opportunity to experience the various Tibetan cultures since the region is home to a lot of minorities. All of these also make the park a worthy part of UNESCO World Heritage List.
Three parallel Rivers Park Brief info
Address: Gucheng District, Lijiang
Admission Fees: Free (fees can vary among tour agencies)
Operating Hours: all day
How to Get There: Most of the trips are organized by tour agencies.