The Taroko Gorge Is One Of The Most Popular Tourist Attractions In Taiwan
This superb gorge cuts its winding, narrow way through the Central Mountain Range on the island of Taiwan and is so dramatic that it is the centerpiece of the Taroko National Park, one of only eight national parks in the country.
It has the nickname of the "Marble Gorge" because of the abundance of this rock that is to be found in the area.
It is a stunning sight to see the towering grey-white cliffs reaching upwards from the valley floor to hundreds of feet overhead.
Taroko Gorge was cut through the mountains by the waters of the Liwu River. This process began about 70 million years ago when the Central Mountain Range was still being pushed upwards.
The marble rock proved to be very resistant to erosion by water, so although a path was eventually cut by the river, the valley it formed was extremely narrow and incredibly steep.
The Narrow, Winding Route Through The Taroko Gorge
For its size, Taiwan has the highest density of mountains anywhere in the world. It has 258 mountains that have an elevation of 3,000 metres (9,800 feet) or higher.
The country therefore uses its available land as wisely as possible. This was one of the reasons why, during the early 1950`s, a major project was planned to build the Central Cross Island Highway through the gorge despite the obvious difficulties.
The Eternal Spring Shrine In Memory Of Workers Killed Building The Central Cross Island Highway
Work began in July 1956 and the highway was opened to traffic on 9th May 1960. This marvel of construction cost the lives of 212 workers!
Their memory is perpetuated by the Eternal Spring Shrine which is located close to the road at Changchun Falls. This is now one of the favourite places for tourists to stop and take photos.
However, the highway they built runs through seismically unstable terrain and is also in an area subject to typhoons. The inevitable occured on September 21st 1999 when the Jiji earthquake caused massive damage on Taiwan and the Central Cross Island Highway was cut in a number of places between Lishan and Dongshih.
"Tunnel Of Nine Turns" On The Central Cross Island Highway In The Gorge (Photo by Morgan Calliope)
The damage caused to the highway was unprecedented and a debate raged as to the feasibility of carrying out repairs. In the end they were started and the highway scheduled to be re-opened in 2004.
However, typhoon Mindulle then struck and inflicted even more damage, including several severe landslides. Areas of the highway were then closed indefinitely, although there is still a route from Hualien County in the east across the island to the west, a long detour has to be made as the highway is permanently closed between Lishuan and Guguan.
Although the highway is not fully open, the Taroko Gorge and the road that runs through it remain a huge tourist attraction. Visitors marvel at the towering cliffs and wonder at sections of the road such as "The Tunnel Of Nine Turns."
A Footbridge Over Part Of The Gorge (Photo by Edwin11)
As part of the Taroko National Park, the gorge is the scene for a number of leisure activities.
There are several hiking trails both through the gorge and the surrounding mountains and during the summer months rafting down the river becomes very popular.
Early every November the Taroko Gorge is closed for the day when the Taipei Road Running Association hold a marathon, half marathon and a 5 kilometre fun run.
It is said that the Taroko Gorge received its name many years ago when a local Truku tribesman walked out of the gorge and saw the Pacific Ocean. He apparently yelled "Taroko" which meant "magnificent and beautiful" - the name for the area stuck.
When you visit this gorge I`m sure you will see why!