White Pearl Logo The NuJiang River Project
Natural Attributes of the Nu Region

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Lovely turquoise waters of the Nu Jiang.

Looking upriver one sees the road close to the
river and ledge rapids between turquoise pools.

Mountains averaging 10,000 ft/3,000 meters in height border grand Nu Jiang Canyon. Dense virgin forests of pine and fir cover many mountain slopes above a certain elevation and bamboo thickets below. Here is the habitat of tiger, leopard, bear, deer, giant hawk, rare pheasant. 314 different medicinal plants have been discovered and hundreds of different orchids and azaleas. All of these species are threatened by the people's need for food and cropland, and by the further loss of habitat from logging and mining. Every year more poorly built roads give loggers and poachers more access.

Selected Species List:

  • Trees - Tsuga hinensis (Hemlock), Pseudotsuga sinensis Dode (Chinese douglas fir), Toona Ciliata Roem, Taxus yunnanensis (Yew), Chinese catalpa, Michilus yunnanensis, padauk and Taiwania flousiana gaussen.
  • Flowers - Orchids: Cymbidium hookerianum, C. yinbianlan, C. taibaisu, C. kanran, C. lianbansu, C. goeringii.
  • Animals - Tiger, Leopard, Leopard Cat, Lesser Panda, Manul Pallas' Cat, Bear, Bee monkey, Baimei gibbon, Takin, Peacock, Phasianus colchicus, Bullfinch, Giant flying squirrel (Petaurista).

See White Pearl's Links for description and images. Other sources for this page's information courtesy of the NuJiang Lisu Prefecture government.

© White Pearl

One of many sand beaches of the Nu Jiang.

Looking downriver from a beach where we dance and sing with the locals.

The river runs a cyclical course similar to the Mekong and Yangtze Rivers with lows of 200 cubic feet per second (cfs) in winter and highs of 180,000 cfs in summer. Other hydrological information is made available as needed to those seriously interested in the NuJiang Preservation Project river permits. Trek and bike permits are also available.

The weather is temperate most of the year within the river corridor with autumn-winter temperatures averaging 12.8 - 17.6 degrees centigrade and rainfall averaging 26.2 mm/m even in November, the second month of the dry season.

The nature preserve potential is still unfulfilled. The Chinese government like the American government can't resist allocating too much acreage to timber harvesting. It is claimed that Nujiang Lisu has a forested area of 9.68 million mu (chinese acre) making it one of the largest forests of China, which has very little virgin forests left. Of this area only 500,000 acres have been set aside for Nature Preserves or Natural Protective Zones.

© P. Kantor
The scenic river potential is the greatest of any of the Yunnan rivers, because of the extent of its undammed length, its road access, and its consistent clarity of 98% six months a year. This clarity is in stark contrast to the muddy waters of the upper Mekong River in Nujiang Lisu, where mining and logging have significantly deteriorated the water quality. Over 100 Class III-VI rapids were classified as challenging white water by the initial Preservation Project river survey. The natural river has fine white beaches for camping. And clean drinking water is plentiful from many side streams and the river.                   See RiverRat for permits.

Tiger Tour


To be part of the worldwide focus on preserving Endangered Species like the Tiger during the Year FOR the Tiger through ecotourism and species study, which brings income and incentive for preservation of NuJiang.


To travel Nu River valley over the mountains to Pianma, gate to Burma.


To visit key nature reserves along the Burma-China border, studying and recording flora and fauna on our Species List. The itinerary will include the first class Gaoligongshan Nature Reserve, remote virgin forest and lakes, guided by local experts.

Schedule, Fee, and Itinerary Information:

Contact White Pearl for details. Tours are scheduled every year during the dry season October-April.

Nujiang "River Rat"   (Giant Flying Squirrel)
Click image for 1400 x 600 jpg (359K)   © D. Pizzuti

Participants on the Tiger Tour will enjoy also some of the same cultural activities featured on the Ox Tour. But this tour focuses more on the amassing of data, information and photographs to support the case for preservation of species and their habitat, forests and streams, or the work in anti-trafficking and anti-poaching. Some of the tour budget will go directly to the local people and groups like nature preserve staff doing this work.

Individuals or institutional staff who are experts by vocation or avocation in the following areas are invited to submit resumes with copy of passport ID page:

Zoology and botany, biodiversity, ecology, forestry, geology, photography, wilderness economics.

Although the tour is mostly a road trip, you must be physically fit with experience in traveling under rigorous and demanding conditions. Background checks and liability waivers will be required due to the "closed to (ordinary) foreigners" border regulations and inaccessible remoteness of the area.

See 1996 Field Report 2 and Field Report 4 for other pictures and travel information.

NuJiang Environmental Report

The NuJiang River Project has an ongoing Environmental Report to make a Case for Preservation. Here are sections which participating experts can contribute to this year:

Why is the Nu River Region vital in the world-wide campaign to Save the Tiger and other endangered species?

© P. Kantor

  1. NuJiang contains five important bioregions and traditional habitats, including temperate mixed conifer forests, tropical moist evergreen forests, and dry forests. Two of the Tiger subspecies historically lived in NuJiang, making this a premium area for preservation of habitat and for future re-introduction. A very large area of forest is required to support viable populations of large carnivores like the tiger, which NuJiang still has, for now.
  2. Protecting the large species forms an umbrella over many lesser species, of which NuJiang has at least five on the Endangered Species list. 80% of the world's endangered biodiversity and 75% of its cultural diversity lies within 17 megadiversity countries. China is Number Three at the top of that list. China is also Number Two on the list of most threatened mammal species (75) and Number Three with most threatened bird species (90). NuJiang has the environment to support many of these species. Of great interest are her Galliformes (pheasants) because they play a special role as indicators to identify and promote the conservation of sites important for other species.
  3. Experts say the South China tiger, from which all other subspecies evolved, will be extinct by the next Year of the Tiger - 2010 - without drastic measures. So few tigers are left in the wild, it's a certainty that traditional medicine recipes will outlast tiger bone supplies. China is the import/export center of the world for illegal tiger bone, because her own supply from the 60's tiger slaughter is gone. Priority sites for anti-trafficing work are China's borders; and next to Hong Kong, the NuJiang Burmese Road should be at the top of the list. Its daily cargo is not only drugs like Heroin and diseases like Aids, but also Endangered Species parts and even live animals.

How does the very survival of NuJiang depend on the Preservation of Forests of Nujiang?

  1. The survival of an area of rich biodiversity in species and cultures like NuJiang depends on preservation of the forest. The minorities there have done well until recently to preserve their biodiversity themselves. Their erosion free agriculture is laudable, and their hunting was restrained. But NuJiang's economy is approaching an 80% reliance on logging and extraction of minerals, following the new roads and driven by an understandable desire for prosperity.
  2. The Chinese government is at the bottom of the list in the world in forest preservation. China has protected less than 5% of her forests, while having the lowest ratio of forest to people. As urban Chinese grow richer, more old growth of NuJiang is being sacrificed to satisfy their appetite for expensive furniture. This region has the most pressure on its remaining forests and in most need of forest management. Funding from the central government for preservation and management instead of extraction is and will continue to be inadequate until it's too late.
  3. The destruction of river drainage takes place in tiny increments almost unnoticed until a monsoon generated mudslide takes out an entire mountainside. NuJiang minorities are sensitive to this but can not resist the excessive clearcutting by themselves. Incentive must be given to inhabitants to act for preservation. Sufficient income to the local economy from other sources like ecotourism, as well as education, can provide this incentive.

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