Yarlung Tsangpo River

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Yarlung Tsangpo yar klung gtsang po
Yarlung Tsangpo - Tibet - 02.jpg
Yarlung Tsangpo southwest of Lhasa
Country Tibet, India, Bangladesh
Main source Angsi Glacier in Tibet (Xigazê, Tibet Autonomous Region,  China)
Basin size 912,000 km2 (352,000 sq mi)
Physical characteristics
Length 2,840 km (1,760 mi)
  • Average rate:
    16,240 m3/s (574,000 cu ft/s)

Yarlung Tsangpo is the longest river of Tibet.[1] It is the upper stream of Brahmaputra River which flows through its origin, Tibet, known by its Tibetan name. It originates at Angsi Glacier in western Tibet southeast of Mount Kailash and Lake Manasarovar. It later forms the South Tibet Valley and Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon before passing through the state of Arunachal Pradesh, India, where it is known as Siang.

It is sometimes called Yarlung Zangbo or Yarlung Zangbo Jiang (Tibetan: ཡར་ཀླུངས་གཙང་པོ་Wylie: yar kLungs gTsang po, ZYPY: Yarlung Zangbo), or Yalu Zangbu River (simplified Chinese: 雅鲁藏布江; traditional Chinese: 雅魯藏布江; pinyin: Yǎlǔ Zàngbù Jiāng). The part Tsangpo denotes a river flowing from or through Tsang, meaning Tibet west of Lhasa.

Downstream from Arunachal Pradesh the river becomes wider and at this point is called the Siang. After reaching Assam, the river is known as Brahmaputra. From Assam, the river enters Bangladesh at Ramnabazar. From there until about 200 years ago it used to flow eastward and joined the Meghna River near Bhairab Upazila. This old channel has been gradually dying now. At present the main channel of the river is called Jamuna River, which flows southward to meet Ganges, which in Bangladesh is called the Padma.

When leaving the Tibetan Plateau, the Yarlung River forms the world's largest and deepest canyon, Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon.[2] The gorge has been described as "the highest river in the world" by the organizers of a kayaking expedition, although it's not clear from their press release what definition was used. [3]


Yarlung Tsangpo, Shigatse Prefecture
Map of the Yarlung Tsangpo River
Yarlung Tsangpo River, sediment
Yarlung Tsangpo River as it courses through Tibet, with peaks Namche Barwa and Gyala Peri. The picture is centered on 29°09′22″N 93°58′59″E / 29.156°N 93.983°E / 29.156; 93.983

The Yarlung Tsangpo River is the highest major river in the world. Its longest tributary is the Nyang River. In Tibet the river flows through the South Tibet Valley, which is approximately 1,200 kilometres (750 mi) long and 300 kilometres (190 mi) wide. The valley descends from 4,500 metres (14,800 ft) above sea level to 3,000 metres (9,800 ft).[4][5] As it descends, the surrounding vegetation changes from cold desert to arid steppe to deciduous scrub vegetation. It ultimately changes into a conifer and rhododendron forest. The tree line is approximately 3,200 metres (10,500 ft).[6] Sedimentary sandstone rocks found near the Tibetan capital of Lhasa contain grains of magnetic minerals that record the Earth's alternating magnetic field current.[7]

The basin of the Yarlung River, bounded by the Himalayas in the south and Kang Rinpoche and Nyenchen Tanglha Mountains in the north, has less severe climate than the more northern (and higher-elevation) parts of Tibet, and is home to most of the Autonomous Region's population (Lhasa City, Shigatse, Lhoka, and Nyingchi Prefectures).

The Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon, formed by a horse-shoe bend in the river where it leaves the Tibetan Plateau and flows around Namcha Barwa, is the deepest, and possibly longest canyon in the world.[8] The river has been a challenge to whitewater kayakers because of the extreme conditions of the river.[9]

The Yarlung Tsangpo River has three major waterfalls.[10] The largest waterfall of the river, the "Hidden Falls", was not publicized in the West until 1998, when its sighting by Westerners was briefly hailed as a "discovery."[11] They were even portrayed as the discovery of the great falls which had been the topic of stories told to early Westerners by Tibetan hunters and Buddhist monks, but which had never been found by Western explorers at the time.[12] Chinese authorities protested, however, saying that Chinese geographers, who had explored the gorge since 1973, had already taken pictures of the falls in 1987 from a helicopter.[13]

Major tributaries of Yarlung Tsangpo include Nyangchu River, Lhasa River, Nyang River, and Parlung Tsangpo.

Kayak exploration[edit]

Yarlung Tsangpo River, whitewater

Since the 1990s the Yarlung Tsangpo River has been the destination of a number of teams that engage in exploration and whitewater kayaking. The river has been called the “Everest of Rivers” because of the extreme conditions of the river.[9] The first attempt to run was made in 1993 by a Japanese group who lost one member on the river.

In October 1998, a kayaking expedition sponsored by the National Geographic Society attempted to navigate the Yarlung Tsangpo Grand Canyon. Troubled by unanticipated high water levels, the expedition ended in tragedy when expert kayaker Doug Gordon lost his life.[14]

In January–February, 2002, an international group consisting of Scott Lindgren, Steve Fisher, Mike Abbott, Allan Ellard, Dustin Knapp, and Johnnie and Willie Kern, completed the first descent of the upper Tsangpo gorge section.[15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Yue-man Yeung & Jianfa Shen 2004.
  2. ^ "The New largest Canyon in the world - The Great Canyon of Yalung Tsangpu River (Tibet)". www.100gogo.com. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  3. ^ "Outside Online Archives". outside.away.com. Retrieved 2009-07-19. . Quote: "The Tsangpo Gorge is the highest river in the world and it has stood as one of the last unattained adventure prizes left on earth, until now."
  4. ^ Yang Qinye and Zheng Du. Tibetan Geography. China Intercontinental Press. pp. 30–31. ISBN 7508506650. 
  5. ^ Zheng Du, Zhang Qingsong, Wu Shaohong: Mountain Geoecology and Sustainable Development of the Tibetan Plateau (Kluwer 2000), ISBN 0-7923-6688-3, p. 312;
  6. ^ "Yarlung Tsangpo arid steppe". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  7. ^ "Yarlung Tsangpo River in China". Atmospheric Data Science Center. Retrieved 2007-06-27. 
  8. ^ "The World's Biggest Canyon". www.china.org. Retrieved 2007-06-29. 
  9. ^ a b Press release of successful kayak run
  10. ^ "Hidden Falls". WWD - Waterfall Database. Retrieved 2007-06-30. 
  11. ^ "Fabled Tibetan Waterfalls Finally Discovered". Retrieved 2007-07-07. 
  12. ^ Compiled by Nima Dorjee (7 January, 1999). Fabled Tibetan Waterfalls Finally Discovered. World Tibet Network News. Published by The Canada Tibet Committee. Issue ID: 99/01/07 (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
  13. ^ Peter Heller (July 2002). Liquid Thunder. Outside Online. (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
    Antonio Perezgrueso (undated). The Echo of Liquid Thunder. (span. original: Los ecos del trueno líquido) Explorations and Expeditions on the English pages of the Sociedad Geográfica Española (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
    Who found it first? no longer existing website, quoted without further information on The Ancients. Shangri-La Found as: "Little attention was paid to the Chinese team that had been striking for the falls during that fateful trekking season. They claimed to have reached the falls before Baker but were ignored for the most part by everybody except their government who decided to close the gorge to westerners." (retrieved on 14 September 2008)
  14. ^ Doug Gordon
  15. ^ Heller, Peter. "Tsangpo Expedition: Liquid Thunder". Outside Magazine. Outside Online. Retrieved 2009-02-07.