Three Rivers Of Divine Design

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Archaeologist E. C. Curwen stood gazing out at the rolling downs of Stoughton, near West Sussex, in England. He was puzzled by several circles he saw amidst the wheat fields, so large they looked as if they were “caused by something which came from the sky.”

Curwen hypothesized that a rare, strong air current somehow beat down the stalks, bending them into strange angles. Never in his 1963 letter to the editor of the New Scientist, a UK-based scientific magazine still in circulation today, did he allude to an extraterrestrial cause for the strange designs. Nevertheless, in the years following his publicized observation there were countless reports of these so-called “crop circles” all over the world, with wild theories as to their origins abounding. The most popular of which, as you likely know, was that aliens were responsible for the phenomenon and trying to communicate with humans.

So, were they?

Possibly, sure–but not likely. By 2000, the lore of the crop circle was relatively debunked as more and more (mere) human culprits were discovered behind their appearances. One scientist named Colin Andrews reported to the BBC that “17 years of work has revealed that about 80 percent of the formations are man-made.” The remaining 20 Andrews chalked up to natural magnetism, noting they all had a marked simplicity and abundant design errors, which contrasted sharply against the intricate, perfectly crafted manmade patterns.

While the Western world obsessed over shapes in wheat, a truly awe-inspiring intricacy of nature thrived in the east (and still does), in the form of three strikingly parallel rivers.

In Central Asia, the Tanggula Mountains erupt out of the Tibetan Plateau–the world’s largest, highest tabletop, sometimes called The Roof Of The World. The surrounding mountains house the two tallest peaks in the world; Mount Everest and K2, and the majority of the plateau itself sits three miles above sea level.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Within those soaring peaks, three rivers originate; the Yangtze, the Mekong, and the Salween. They flow for 300 km without ever intersecting, separated by mountains reaching up to 6,000 feet, and yet somehow, miraculously, they remain almost entirely parallel to one another.

It’s probably the work of aliens. No, we jest, it’s actually the work of erosion.

Eventually the rivers diverge, each reaching a different sea separated by thousands of kilometers. They form the barriers of the Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan Protected Areas, which span 1.7 million hectares and qualify as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

UNESCO sites are dubbed such because they are either culturally or geographically significant, and once approved they can qualify for preservation funds and conservation policies.

To date, there are 1031 UNESCO properties, though more are being lobbied for daily. These sites can be (and are) anywhere around the globe; from the city of Pergamon in Turkey, to the white chalk cliffs of a special ocean stretch along the coast of Denmark, to the Rani-Ki-Vav in India. UNESCO sites are truly as diverse as the planet itself.

Undoubtedly some of the most profound, beautiful, and interesting places in the world make this list, which is likely why a trend has burgeoned among popular travel writers to “collect them all,” or document a visit to each one.

The Three Parallel Rivers includes nine nature reserves that boast 188 official “scenic sites,” though more are constantly being discovered. The landscape is unique not only because of the three rivers, but also because of its overall geography. Though the latitude there is considered tropical, the elevation is so high that the overall climate is actually temperate. The peaks and valleys produce drastically conflicting temperatures, facilitating an incredibly diverse array of microclimates. The weather includes everything from snowstorms and permanent glaciers in the alpines, to rain and sun drenched meadows and plateaus, to deep humid valleys bursting with tropical flora.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Because of all these thriving ecosystems, the Three Parallel Rivers is considered to be the “epicenter of Chinese biodiversity,” and possibly houses the “richest biodiversity among the temperate climates of the world.”

It’s estimated that 25 percent of the world’s animal population is supported within the area’s boundaries, including many endangered species, such as the Red Panda, the Black Snub-Nosed Monkey, the Indian Leopard, and the Snow Leopard, all of which are endemic to China. Rare bird species also nest in the evergreen, deciduous, or coniferous forests, or the savanna shrublands, including the chestnut-throated partridge, the white-eared pheasant, and the black-necked crane.

Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

The flora and fauna are not the only diversity in the area–there are 13 different ethnic groups that call the land home, including the Tibetans, who consider the highest mountain, Mount Kawagebo, to be holy. They, along with the other twelve groups, are currently being re-located by the Chinese government to areas that better support large farms, in the hopes of alleviating poverty and preserving the natural landscape. However, the government preserves 31 of the “traditional” village due to their touristic draw.

The Three Parallel Rivers of Yunnan is one of the most scientifically significant sites in the world, and entirely worth preserving–even if it wasn’t carved by the thrusters of some Earth-sized UFO. The sheer vastness of nature that exists in the area is tantamount to divine (or alien) design, much more so than some flattened crop fields. It is well-deserving of our time and attention.

To find out how you can help to preserve this incredible feat of nature, head to the UNESCO World Heritage website.