Gezhou Dam, which lies within the municipal boundaries of the city
of Yichang, Hubei Province, is situated in the Xiling Gorge. When
completed in 1980, Gezhou Dam was China’s largest hydroelectric
dam, controlling a water volume corresponding to roughly half of
the Yangtze’s total capacity.
Gezhou Dam is 2561 meters across, 70 meters high, and has a depth,
or wall thickness, of 30 meters. Gezhou Dam was an enormous
construction project, as its dimensions indicate, that attracted
worldwide attention and boosted the tourist industry of the area,
and even though the Three Gorges Dam itself is a much more stellar
project, it too belongs to the same overarching power-generating
and flood-control plan for this part of the Yangtze River as Gezhou
Gezhou Dam's status as China's largest hydroelectric dam has of
course been definitively toppled with the completion of the Three
Gorges Dam in 2007, as the latter is now not only China's largest,
but the world's largest hydroelectric dam. Still, as part of this
fascinating stretch of the mighty Yangtze River, Yichang's Gezhou
Dam and nearby Xiling Gorge will forever remain noteworthy tourist
The major components of Gezhou Dam are its power stations and its
shiplocks and sluices for permitting the passage of ships up and
down the Yangtze. There are shiplocks for the usual variety of
tonnage categories, i.e., from those for lighter craft to those
designed for the passage of heavy ships carrying massive loads.
Gezhou Dam generates 15.7 billion KWH of electricity annually,
divided over two power stations and 21 generators. One of the power
stations straddles the river's main flow, or stream, while the
other straddles the river's secondary stream.
The dam project, which, in its time, took 10 years to complete
(1970-1980), involved the removal of over 113 million cubic meters
of earth and stone, which, to put it into more graphic terms, is
enough earth and stone to construct a large mountain.
As a grandiose project that attracted worldwide attention in its
time, Gezhou Dam, with its magnificent floodgate, remains a
compelling image to behold as the massive flows of the Yangtze
spill over the dam's turbines, creating roiling torrents that roar
with the sound of thunder. The violent force of these frothy water
masses as they spill over the dam is contrasted by the utter
tranquility and serene beauty of the landscape behind the dam,
where some species may have suffered decline but where others have
most certainly seized new opportunities.