One of a number of Chinese rivers that share this name, the Daning River is a tributary of the Yangtze and meets the main river at Wu Gorge, one of the Three Gorges, by the town of Wushan. Travelers mainly know the Daning River for the Three Little Gorges: Dragon Gate Gorge (Longmen Xia), Misty Gorge (Bawu Xia), and Emerald Gorge (Dicui Xia).
The Daning River is most easily visited as a side trip from a Yangtze Three Gorges cruise. Boats, which nowadays include quite substantial craft, head upriver from Wu Gorge through the striking scenery of the Three Little Gorges. Besides Wushan, riverside towns include Dachang Ancient Town, a historic walled village that was moved wholesale before the Three Gorges Dam flooded its old site.
Things to Know Before You Go
The Daning River is a must for photographers and landscape lovers.
Look out for the mysterious coffins suspended in the cliff face as you cruise Misty Gorge.
Most of the boats that ply the Daning River are not wheelchair-accessible.
How to Get There
The most important stretch of the Daning River is the Three Little Gorges in Chongqing province, which run north from the Wu Gorge on the Yangtze. Most international travelers visit as a day excursion from a Yangtze Three Gorges cruise ship, but you can also book tours out of Yichang or Chongqing city by way of Wushan.
When to Get There
With hot, wet summers and cool winters, spring and fall are the best seasons to visit the Three Gorges area. Avoid the major Chinese holidays, particularly Golden Week, at the start of October, and the period around Lunar New Year in late winter, and try to cruise midweek for a less crowded experience.
The Three Little Gorges
For most visitors, the Three Little Gorges (often known as the Lesser Three Gorges) are the highlight of the Daning River. Dragon Gate Gorge is the shortest; Emerald Gorge is the longest; and Misty Gorge features suspended coffins. From Emerald Gorge, a far smaller tributary leads off through the Mini Three Gorges, which are only navigable in small boats.