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Elusive “Turtle Island” Rising from the Waters of the Muodaoxi River

Island in The Three Gorges Reservoir 4

Every year around the months of spring, thousands of Chinese tourists flock to the The Gorges Reservoir to see an elusive “turtle island” rising from the waters of the Muodaoxi River. The event, dubbed ‘spring turtle rising’, is an important annual celebration, as local residents believe that turtles signify longevity.

Fascinating though the idea of an island only appearing a few months of the year may be, the phenomena is actually man-made. The water level of Muodaoxi River is controlled by the Three Gorges Dam. In spring, the reservoir has to supply water to areas downstream, meaning the water level recedes to expose ‘Turtle Island’.

Island in The Gorges Reservoir
The turtle shaped island rises from the waters only in spring

For nine months the island is either fully submerged or only has its tip exposed. The turtle shape is only fully visible when the water level is around 163 to 168 meters in depth. If the water falls much lower than this, the island becomes connected to the mainland, losing its unique turtle shape.

Island in The Three Gorges Reservoir
The water level is controlled by the Gorges Reservoir further upstream

The phenomenon has gained widespread attention of many Chinese tourists of late. Once the island appears, word spreads and people rush to the location, to take photographs from the nearby hills. “It’s a popular saying around here for the arrival of spring, we just say the turtle is coming,” said local resident Meng Liu.

Island in The Three Gorges Reservoir 5
The area surrounding the Muodaoxi River is a popular tourist destination
Island in The Three Gorges Reservoir 3
Locals celebrate the island as they believe that turtles signify longevity

[Image Credits: www.ecns.cn]