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A special summer along the rivers

The Donggang (lit. East River) in eastern Yeongwol County begins at the confluence of the Odaecheon (a river that originates in Pyeongchang County, Gangwon-do) and the Joyanggang (a river that originates in Jeongseon County, Gangwon-do) and flows southwestward. The Seogang (lit. West River) in western Yeongwol begins at the confluence of the Pyeongchanggang (a river that originates in Pyeongchang County) and the Jucheongang (a river that originates on Mount Taegisan). These two rivers finally merge and join the Namhangang (lit. South Hangang River), which itself is a tributary of the mighty Hangang, the river that runs through the heart of Seoul. and is renowned worldwide for the “Miracle on the Hangang River.”

The Donggang meanders through valleys, while the Seogang is straighter. Most of Yeongwol’s best scenery is along these two rivers, such as Cheongnyeongpo, Seondol, Seonam (a headland in the shape of the Korean Peninsula), and Eorayeon. These places are natural works of art carved into the land over the eons by the rivers thrusting and jabbing at the soil and rock along the banks.

The Donggang and the Seogang are not only uncommonly beautiful but also ideal for rafing and other water recreation.lThe Donggang and the Seogang are not only uncommonly beautiful but also ideal for rafting and other water recreation.

The Donggang snakes along at a leisurely pace between rough limestone cliffs. The scenery unfolding along the Donggang is picturesque.

The Donggang once served as a waterway for raft transport, mainly for lumber. Logs from the southern part of Gangwon-do were bound together in the form of rafts and set afloat on the Donggang to eventually be recovered when they reached Gwangnaru in Seoul, where a river dock once stood. Today, the dock is long gone, but it is memorialized by the presence of Gwangnaru Station on Seoul Subway Line 5.

Seondol refers to a pair of tall rocks standing on the shore of the Seogang.

Seondol refers to the pair of tall rocks standing on the shore of the Seogang.

Back in the day, the raft drivers nicknamed the Donggang the “Deep Valley,” and along the banks were gaekju facilities (brokerages and inns for merchants and raft drivers). When the Hambaek Railway connecting Yeongwol and Hambaek was laid in 1957, the Donggang became forlorn and nearly forgotten. It was not until 2000 that it was rediscovered and dubbed the “Amazon of Korea” when the construction of the Yeongwol Dam sparked nationwide controversy over ecological protection.

Some parts of the Donggang remain almost untrodden. One of those areas is Eorayeon, which literally means “glittering like the scales of fish that swim and jump in the river.” Eorayeon is not easily seen from outside, but if you are willing to take a winding ninekilometer walk up a mountain path to the top of a hill named Jatbong, you can see its hidden “glittering” charm.

Another way to enjoy the beauty of Eorayeon is to raft far down the Donggang from the Joyanggang. The trip takes more than two and a half hours. These are the same waters where the rafts of old days once passed. Your eyes will bask in the natural serenity as no artificial structures stand on either bank. Floating between rocks the size of houses with names like Sangseonam, Jungseonam, and Haseonam is a delightful experience.

Eorayeon is the perfect place for rafting. Other excellent rivers in Korea for rafting are the Naerincheon and the Hantangang. However, if you are looking for a fun and safe rafting experience, Eorayeon is the best for its gentle currents. Many say, “Even a toddler who has just been weaned can raft on Eorayeon.”

There are many things you can do on the Donggang, especially in summer. Walking along the river is romantic; riding a mountain bike or an all-terrain vehicle along its banks is thrilling. A variety of freshwater fish including dark chubs (Zacco temminckii), swiri (Coreoleuciscus splendidus), and kkeokji (Coreoperca herzi) can be found in the clear water, making the river an excellent place for fishermen to chase off the heat of summer.

HISTORY AND CULTURE FLOW WITH THE SEOGANG

Seonam, a village at the upper reaches of the Seogang, is on a piece of land jutting out into the water that is shaped just like the Korean Peninsula. It was sculpted by the forces of nature, particularly the waters of the Seogang. From a nearby observatory, a thick pine forest appears to stand for the Baekdudaegan, a mountain range that runs north to south along the entire Korean Peninsula, and other jutting features of the headland bear an uncanny resemblance to their counterparts on the peninsula.

Though straighter than the Donggang, the Seogang itself still snakes, forming capes and inlets. Cheongnyeongpo in Yeongwol is a cape where King Danjong, the sixth monarch of the Joseon Dynasty, lived in exile after being deposed by his own uncle, King Sejo. Facing water in three cardinal directions and blocked by a rugged cliff called Yugyukbong in the other, Cheongnyeongpo was a natural jail and refused any access except by ship.

Seonam Village is on a piece of land that is shaped just like the Korean Peninsula, sculpted by the water of the Seogang.

Cheongnyeongpo is famous for its pine woods. More than 700 pine trees that are hundreds of years old still grow there, and mysteriously, the pine trees around the house where King Danjong stayed all lean toward it. It has long been believed that even the trees paid tribute to the king, though there must certainly be a scientific explanation such as their seeking more light in the thick, lush forest.

Seondol refers to a pair of tall rocks standing on the shore of the Seogang. As tall as 70 meters, these two rocks rise like gigantic pointed towers. From afar, they also look like two Taoist immortal beings, so they are also dubbed Sinseonam (lit. Rocks of Taoist Immortal Beings). The view of the Seogang as seen between the two rocks is absolutely fantastic.

[Travel Information]

-What to eat
Gondeure Namul Bap (rice cooked with Cirsium setidens) Gondeure namul bap is a specialty of Jeongseon and Yeongwol Counties. To prepare this special dish, rice is cooked with gondeure, a perennial medicinal herb. The rice is then mixed with radishes, bean sprouts, fiddlehead greens, and seasoned soy sauce. If you want to fully enjoy the bitter but soft flavor and texture of gondeure, just add seasoned soy sauce without any other vegetables.

-How to get there
Car Gyeongbu Expressway (or Jungbu Expressway) Yeongdong Expressway at Singal Intersection (or Hobeop Intersection) Jungang Expressway at Manjong Intersection National Highway 38 at Jecheon Interchange Yeongwol Interchange (takes two hours) Bus Dong Seoul Intercity Bus Terminal Yeongwol Intercity Bus Terminal (runs 14 times a day; takes two hours) Train Cheongnyangni Station in Seoul Yeongwol Station (runs six times a day; takes three hours)

*Article from Korea Magazine (August 2012)

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