Where We Be
The massive Three Gorges Dam -- a mile long and 600 feet high -- has finally tamed the Yangtze
Three Gorges Dam -- Yangtze, China
Billed as China’s biggest construction project
since the Great Wall, Three Gorges Dam has
become a tourist attraction in its own right. It’s
the largest hydroelectric dam in the world,
spanning over a mile and towering 600 feet
above the world’s third longest river. Its
reservoir stretches for 350 miles upstream!

Close to 2 million people were displaced from
their homes when water levels started to rise.
On the plus side, though, the dam is expected
to generate 10% of China’s energy needs.

Everything seems so solid and calm that it feels
like the dam must have been here forever, but
it has only been operational since 2003. Water
levels have risen 250 feet since then and will
rise another 250 feet by 2009. From an upriver
vantage point, we get a panoramic view of the
entire dam site, including a series of five ship
locks. Later in the day, our own ship will enter
these same locks and rise up to the level of the
water on the upriver side of the dam.
So let's take a little tour together. We'll start by looking downstream from the dam.
Here water levels on the Yangtze are essentially unchanged from their pre-dam levels.
A series of five locks is necessary to get ships from one side of the dam to the other. The water level in each lock rises high enough
to let the ships pass through to the next lock, and so on, until the ships reach the water level of the Yangtze on the upriver side of the dam.
Here we're looking straight at the dam on the downstream side. The water is low on this side and high on the other.
After visiting the downstream portion of the dam, we reboard our bus and drive to an upstream vantage point. Although
it's a foggy morning, you can barely make out both the downstream and the upstream side of the dam from here.
Believe it or not, this Jackson Pollock-like photo is actually a closeup of one small section of the lock walls!