The Three Gorges are world famous as the most scenic section of the navigable reaches of the Yangtze, and the location of the Three Gorges Dam. They form a series of natural and cultural attractions on a Yangtze Cruise between Chongqing and Yichang on the middle reaches of the Yangtze.
Qutang (/chyoo-tung/ ‘Qu (a family name) pond’) Gorge begins at the county town of Fengjie, about 500 km (300 miles) downstream from Chongqing City.
Wu (‘Witch’) Gorge begins where Daning River joins the Yangtze at Wushan.
Travelling up the Daning River takes travelers through the Lesser Three Gorges, a compact version of the Three Gorges, which has a still narrower set of gorges, called the Mini Three Gorges, at the far end.
Wu Gorge is also about 40 km long, and joins Xiling Gorge at the county town of Badong (/bar-dong/ literally: ‘east of East Sihuan and Chongqing’, just over the border in Hubei Province).
It is about 40 km (25 mi) long, and ends at Wushan (/woo-shan/ ‘witch mountain’) County Town.
Xiling (/sshee-ling/ ‘west mountain range’) Gorge starts from Badong, where Shennong Stream and the Yangtze meet.
The crystal clear waters, suspended walkways, and hanging coffins of Shennong Stream draw tourists for mini-cruises to explore this side attraction.
Sanyou Cave (/san-yo/ ‘three travellers’), where three famous ancient poets are said to have stayed, is the best cave in the Three Gorges area. Sanyou Cave is about 10 km (6 mi) from Yichang on Xiling Gorge.
Xiling Gorge is about 100 km (60 mi) long and finishes at Yichang City.
Recent Changes to the Three Gorges
The Three Gorges were once a dangerous stretch of the river, nevertheless frequently used for shipping, with the inland industrial center of Chongqing as the hub.
Since the construction of the Three Gorges Dam (structurally complete in 2006) the river level has been raised by up to 180 m (590 ft), and the river has become much quieter and more navigable.
Cruise ships now travel between Chongqing and Yichang on placid, lake-like waters, enclosed by steep cliffs, giving passengers a better chance to see the beauty of the gorges.