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Yangtze River

Yangtze River
The Yangtze River is 3,900 miles long

The Yangtze River is the longest river in Asia. It’s the third-longest river in the world, after the Nile and Amazon Rivers. The Yangtze River is entirely in China. It runs from the Himalayas in the Plateau of Tibet into the East China Sea, and eventually the Pacific Ocean.

The Yangtze River is 3,900 miles (6,300 km) long. During its long journey, the Yangtze River traverses ten Chinese provinces or regions and a wide range of terrain. It flows through narrow mountainous valleys, tall river gorges, lake-strewn plains, and farmland before it reaches a wide delta where it reaches a width of over 50 miles (80 km) before it empties into the sea.

The Yangtze River drains nearly 700,000 square miles (about 2 million square km) of China. This is over one-fifth of China. It has eight main tributaries. Among them, the Han Shui River and the Ya-Lung Chiang River are the biggest.

In the upper mountainous course of the Yangtze River, the river’s elevation drops dramatically. It drops an average of 10 feet each mile (2 m per km). This steep drop creates rushing water and strong rapids, especially during times of rain. Over its entire course, the Yangtze drops more than 18,000 feet (5,480 m).

Steep gorges on the Yangtze River
The Yangtze River passes through steep limestone gorges

Along its middle course, the Yangtze River cuts through thick limestone. In a section called the Yangtze Gorges—sometimes also called Three Gorges—river walls are very steep and tall. Prior to the construction of the dam downstream, the sides of these gorges towered 1,200 to 2,000 feet (365-610 m) above the river. Though much shorter today, the gorges still tower over the river’s surface.

Along the lower course of the Yangtze, the river’s immense flow is controlled by levees built to prevent flooding. Here is located the world’s largest dam—the Three Gorges Dam—which was built in 2006. Still, during the rainy season, the river’s level can rise to uncontrollable limits and overflow, causing much damage.

Many plants and animals live in and along the Yangtze River, some unique to the environment. Yangtze Alligators, Yangtze River dolphins, and Yangtze Giant Softshell Turtles are all animals that are found in and along the Yangtze River. Flora along the river includes bamboo, Chinese willow trees, and lotus blossoms.

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