The Island That Only Appears in Spring

Every year, with the coming of spring, thousands of Chinese tourists flock to the The Gorges Reservoir to see an elusive turtle-shaped island rise from the waters of the Muodaoxi River. The event, dubbed ‘spring turtle rising from water’, is celebrated by local residents because turtles are considered auspicious and a sign of longevity.

It sounds like a fascinating natural phenomenon similar to the Jindo Moses Miracle that takes place in South Korea, but in this case the “magic” is man-made. The water level of Muodaoxi River is controlled by the Three Gorges Dam. In spring, the reservoir supplies water to the areas downstream, bringing down the water level and exposing the island.

The appearance of the island depends on the amount of floodwater heading downstream. For nine months out of a year it is either fully submerged or only has its tip exposed. The turtle shape is fully visible when the water level is between 163 and 168 meters. If the water falls to around 145 meters, the rock becomes connected to the mainland, losing its unique shape.

The unique phenomenon has gained widespread popularity in recent years. Once the island appears, word spreads quickly, and thousands of tourists rush to click 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.