The Yalu River, China-DPRK
Border | Dandong
Travel Guide

The river forming the western China-North Korea border.

Yalu River on the North Korea China Border

The Yalu River (鴨綠江 | Yālǜjiāng) is a river that flows between the North Korea China border. It’s also known by the names Amrok River (압록강) in Korean.

The Yalu River, together with the Tumen River, forms the North Korea China border and has been a location of historical importance as an early centre of Korean civilization. It has long been an important strategic location and a point of conflict during several wars including the Korean War, World War II, the t for Russo-Japanese War, and the First Sino-Japanese War. In times of peace, it has been a major conduit for trade and transport between Korea and China.

Due to its location, it is a popular tourist attraction for both foreign and Chinese tourists eager to get a sight of North Korea. It is possible to visit North Korea as a tourist for most nationalities, but for those that do not wish to enter the country, this is as close as you can get.

Log rafts carrying timber down the Yalu River during the Japanese colonial era.

Geography

The Yalu River is 795km total in length. Located in the north, most of the river freezes during the winter months and it can be walked across on foot.

It is located on the North Korea China border. It flows from Mount Paektu 2500m above sea level south towards Hyesan. It then moves 130m northwest to Linjiang in China and sweeps back towards the South for a further 300km where it empties into the China/North Korea border between Dandong in China and Sinuiju in North Korea.

A view across the Yalu RIver of the North Korean border-city of Sinuiju from Dandong, China.

The Yalu River varies in depth, with the deepest points reaching 2.5m and the most shallow points staying around 1m.

There are many islands on the Yalu River. 205 in total. 127 belong to North Korea, and 78 belong to China.

Yalu River Name

The Yalu River is also known as the Amrok River/Amnok River.

So why the two very different names?

There are two theories surrounding the name of the Yalu River.

Theory 1: The name Yalu is derived from the Manchu language Yalv ula. In Manchu, yalu means “the boundary between two countries”. In Mandarin Chinese, yālù means “duck green”. Although

this may not be the current colour of the river, it is said that the Yalu River used to be this colour.

Theory 2: The Yalu River is named after its two upper branches: "鴨" ( / Ap) and "綠" (Lù / R(or n)ok)"

Yalu River Bridge — Broken Bridge

The Yalu River Broken Bridge is the original bridge on the North Korea China border connecting Chinese city Dandong with North Korea. It was built in 1911, but bombed by the US during the Korean War.

Part of the Broken Bridge in the middle of the Yalu River.

It was declared a municipal heritage site in 1988 and has been open for tourists since 1993.

It remains a popular tourist destination for both foreign and Chinese tourists alike. From the edge of the bridge in the middle of the Yalu River, you can have a look into North Korea and see the amusement park that is currently not in use.

Yalu River Bridge — Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge

The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge connects North Korea to China today. It’s also known as the New Yalu River Bridge, since it was built after the original bridge that is now known as the Yalu River Broken Bridge. It is a railway bridge and also has access for vehicles. It is not open to pedestrians.

The Sino-Korean Friendship Bridge linking China and North Korea as it is today.

Yalu River Dam

There are several dams running off the Yalu River. The biggest one is the Sup’ung Dam. Downstream from this is the Taipingwan Dam, and upstream is the Unbong Dam.

One of the largest hydroelectric dams in Asia, the Sup’ung Dam is located in North Korea just upstream of the Yalu River. It’s 106m high and 850+m long. This Yalu River dam is vital for the local population as it provides fish. It also provides electricity for several North Korean villages located near to the Hushan Great Wall just upstream of the Yalu River.

Practical Tips

* There will be many people selling North Korean goods at the side of the Yalu River. This includes North Korean currency, cigarettes, and pins. The authenticity of these goods is to be desired. If you’re going on a tour to North Korea, you should save your souvenir purchasing until you’re in North Korea, where items will be much cheaper.

Location and Access

You can visit the Yalu River during a short trip to Dandong.

It is a short walk from Dandong train station to the Yalu River bank.

If you have more time in Dandong, you can take a boat trip down the Yalu River where you can get a good view of both of the Yalu River bridges.

The Dandong skyline on the Yalu River waterfront.
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