China’s largest construction project since the Great Wall and the biggest dam in the world in terms of installed capacity, the Three Rivers Dam spans 1.5 miles (2.4 kilometers) and is more than 600 feet (183 meters) tall. The dam is an impressive feat of engineering despite the controversy surrounding its environmental and human impacts.
While you can’t walk on the dam, there’s a viewing area with a great perspective that allows for photo ops (especially when the turbines are spewing water from the reservoir). The small museum next to the viewing area has a large model of the dam and gives a brief history of the building project. If you’re cruising the Yangtze River to or from Yichang, you will likely have to pass through the five-step ship lock that allow boats to bypass the dam; most cruises include a shore excursion to the dam.
Things to Know Before You Go
- The Three Gorges Dam is a must-see for visitors interested in science and engineering.
- Shade is limited around the dam, so be sure to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat.
- The dam is quite large, so wear comfortable shoes and prepare to do a lot of walking.
- If you want to experience the ship locks during waking hours, choose a downstream Yangtze cruise toward Chongqing.
How to Get There
The dam sits 27 miles (43 kilometers) upstream from Yichang City in Hubei Province, and a vast majority of visitors see the dam as part of an organized shore excursion aboard a Yangtze River cruise. If you would rather see the dam by land, catch one of several buses from Yichang to the site.
When to Get There
Prices for Yangtze River cruises tend to be lowest during the winter and highest during the busy months of April, May, September, and October. For the best chance to see the impressive spectacle of the dam releasing water for flood control purposes, plan to visit during the rainy season (summer).
Three Gorges Dam by the Numbers
Building the Three Gorges Dam was a massive undertaking. The official bill came in at US$24 billion and some 244 square miles (632 square kilometers) of land was flooded, displacing 1.3 million people. The dam’s 26 turbines are capable of producing around three percent of China’s energy.