INTERNATIONAL RAFTING FEDERATION : RACING IN CHINA By Nadežda Matić

AllThe Chaotanhou River (translated as “one river and two mountain”) flows through Sleeping Buddha Mountain in Hubei province, 60 km from Yichang, China. The stretch is a total of 6 km long for drifting (what they call the rafting) with a vertical drop of 148 meters. This section of river is dam controlled, as a constant flow of water must be maintained to insure optimal safety and fun for tourists and rafters alike. Although the length of the river is only six kilometers, it seems much longer as much of the river has been altered by man.

Thus, the natural flow of the river is converted into a crazy watercoaster ride. The width of the river seldom exceeds 5 meters in width, except in certain sections where the water is calm and rafters can take a moment to gather themselves before descending the next exhilarating rapid. The river depth ranges from knee high to waist high in most places. Between this and the tight steep riverbed, a very fast and 
powerful current is formed twisting in and out of the bends at high speeds. Rafts manufactured specifically for this purpose are the only crafts allowed down this section of river.  The rafts are self bailing and quite sturdy.  On the rare occasion a raft is stuck along the bank, guides along the shore gently prod your raft downstream with long bamboo poles.
In addition to tourists enjoying the ride like a roller coaster, more frequent vistors also race down the track in smaller two person rafts. In fact, an annual raft race is held here. This raft race in China is one of the most unusual competitions on the IRF calendar. It is an R2 event and only a select 5 to 6 teams from around the world are invited. To participate, i.e.. to be selected from the rafters from around the world to compete, is a real honour. (See more at: http://www.internationalrafting.com/2014/06/international-teams-heading-to-china/#sthash.S57qSsqW.dpuf)
On our trip down the river we fought with the powerful current to keep the raft on course and to stay in the raft.  We had two people fall out of the raft but managed to pull them back in to safety. Thanks to the China Water Sports Administration Center, Chinese Extreme Sports Association, and International Rafting Federation, whitewater attractions like this are becoming more popular around China and accessible to more and more people. 

All pictures courtesy Nadežda Matić

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