The Daqu River flows from the sacred Three Rivers Headwaters Region at the edge of the Tibetan Plateau in Qinghai Province. It is a dramatic Himalayan landscape with a deeply-rooted Tibetan Buddhist culture. Last Descents has been exploring this region for two decades, and have increased our involvement in this rapidly changing area over the past two years. We are writing a guidebook for the headwaters of the Daqu, documenting the unique natural environment of the watershed, recording oral histories from the locals, and bringing Chinese guests on 9 day river trips to experience and connect with this sacred river. We are working with young community leaders to open a dialogue between our guests, the native population, and the local government about the value of protecting this area.
The Daqu begins in the stark, snow-capped peaks of the Tibetan plateau. In its headwaters, the river flows through vibrant grasslands, carved red rock gorges, and towering spires of granite. It fluctuates dramatically in color and volume, and it often feels like a brand new river each morning when we set out.
The Three Rivers Headwaters Region is home to many unique and threatened plants and animals. We routinely encounter a diversity of wildflowers, musk deer, Tibetan pheasants, and blue-lipped sheep. While much harder to find, the area is also renowned for the valuable caterpillar fungus and the elusive snow leopard.
The Daqu river basin is home to an ancient Tibetan pastoral culture. The river valley is dotted with old monasteries and historic relics. Last Descents has been working to collect oral histories and local mythology from the residents of this area. Each time we return to the Daqu we learn more about the sacred peaks, rock formations, and temples. It seems almost every mountain, rock, and rapid has a story and a holiness to it. In 2015, we brought a high ranking monk down the river to help interpret and record the history of this sacred place.