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Salween River

SALWEEN RIVER, a river of Burma. This river, called Nam Kong by the Shans, Thanlwin by the Burmese, Lu Kiang, or Nu Kiang, or Lu Tzu Kiang by the Chinese, is the longest river in Burma, and one of the wildest and most picturesque streams in the world. Its sources are still undetermined, but there seems little doubt that it rises in the Tanla mountains, S. of the Kuen Lun, somewhere in 32 or 33 N., and that perhaps it draws some of its water from the Kara Nor. It is thus a much longer river than the Irrawaddy. From the time it leaves Tibet it has a very narrow basin, and preserves the character of a gigantic ditch, or railway cutting, with for long stretches no other affluents than the mountain torrents from the hills, which rise from 3000 to 5000 or 6000 ft. .above the level of the river-bed. In the dry season the banks are alternate stretches of blinding white, fine sand, and a chaos of huge boulders, masses and slabs of rock, with here and there, usually where a tributary enters, long stretches of shingle. In the rains all these disappear, and the water laps against forest trees and the abrupt slope of the hills. The average difference between high and low water level of the Salween throughout the Shan States is between 50 and 60 ft., and in some places it is as much as 90. There are many rapids, caused by reefs of rock running across the bed, or by a sudden fall of from one to several feet, which produce very rough water below the swift glide; but the most dangerous places for navigation are where a point juts out into the stream, and the current, thrown back, causes a violent double backwater. Nevertheless, long stretches of the river, extending to scores of miles, are habitually navigated by native boats. The current is extremely variable, from m. an hour to ten knots. Launches ply regularly from Moulmein to the mouth of the Yonzalin, in Lower Burma. The worst part of the whole Salween, so far as is known, is the gorge between the mouth of the Yonzalin and Kyaukhnyat. It is quite certain that steam launches could ply over very long sections of the river above that, perhaps as far as the Kaw ferry, or even the Kunlong ferry. In British territory, however, there are very few settlements on the river itself, and frequently the ferry villages are built 1000 ft. above the river.

The Chinese believe the Salween valley to be deadly to all strangers, but it is in Chinese territory particularly in the Lu Kiang, or Mong Hko state that there is the largest population on the river until Lower Burma is reached. A description of the Salween resolves itself into a list of the ferries at which it can be crossed, for no one marches up the river. The river is bridged by the Chinese on the main route from Teng Yiieh (Momien) and Bhamo to Tali-fu. There are two spans; these are not in a straight line, but parallel to one another at the distance of the breadth of the central pillar. Each span is formed by twelve or fourteen massive iron chains, with planks laid across them. There was a bridge some 20 m. lower down, but this was destroyed in 1894. In British territory there are no bridges, and the ferries are the same as those maintained before annexation. There are a great number of these ferries, but only a few are used, except by the local people. From Ta Hsang Le large trading boats ply regularly to Kyaukhnyat, whence the traders make their way by land over the hill to Papun, and so down the Yonzalin.

The chief tributaries of the Salween in British territory are the Nam Yu and the Nam Oi or Nam Mwe on the right bank, and the Hsipa Haw on the left. These are short but fair-sized streams. Near the Kunlong ferry the Nam Nim, on the right bank, and the Nam Ting, on the left, are considerably longer, and the Nam Ting is navigable by native craft for considerable stretches up to Meng Ting and farther. To the S. the next tributary is the Nam Kyek, on the right bank, down the valley of which the railway will reach the Salween. Below this are two streams called Nam Ma, one entering on the right bank, the other on the left, at no great distance from one another, but of no great length. A little below is the Nam Nang, on the left bank, coming from the Wa country. The Nam Kao enters in a cascade of nearly 200 ft. in the cold weather from the right, and then there are no affluents till the Nam Hka comes in on the left.

This has a great volume of water, but is unnavigable because of its steep gradient and many gorges. After the Hwe Long, entering from the left at Ta Kaw, is passed, the Nam Pang comes in 22 m. lower down on the right bank. This is probably the largest tributary of the Salween; some distance above its mouth, at Keng Hkam, it is 400 yds. wide and quite unfordable. The next important tributary is the Nam Hsim, on the left bank, rising in the latitude of Keng Tung. It is a large but quite unnavigable stream. Except the Me Sili and Me Sala, From opposite sides, and the Nam Hang, which burrows its way through a range of hills from the E., and the Nam Pan, coming from the W., there is no considerable tributary till 19 52' N., where the Nam Teng comes in on the right from the central Shan States. This is a considerable river, and navigable for long stretches in its upper course, but the last few miles before it enters the Salween are little better than a cataract. Below this the only large affluent is the Nam Pawn, which drains all Karenni and a considerable portion of the Shan States, but is quite unnavigable. Below this the tributaries are again only mountain streams till the Thaung-yin comes in from the S.E. Thirty m. lower down is Kyodan, the great timber depot. Here a cable, stretched across the river, catches all the timber, which is then made up into rafts and floated down to Kado, near Moulmein, where the revenue is collected. The Yonzalin enters the Salween from the right about 10 m. below Kyodan. Boats can ply from Kyodan S., and light draught steamers ascend as far as Shwegon, 63 m. from Moulmein. The Salween cuts the British Shan States nearly in half, and is a very formidable natural obstacle. It seems probable, however, that long stretches of it can be opened to trade. It is certainly no less navigable than the Middle Mekong or the Yangtsze-kiang above I-chang. (J. G. Sc.)

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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