Located in Qinjin Canyon on the lower reaches of the Yellow River, Hukou Waterfall is at the intersection of Shanxi Province and Shaanxi Province, 45 km (28 mi) to the west of Jixian County, Shanxi Province, and 49 km (30 mi) to the east of Yichuan County, Shaanxi Province. It is the largest yellow waterfall in the world, and the second biggest waterfall in China after Huangguoshu Waterfall in Guizhou Province.
Hukou Waterfall is a narrow, precipitous gorge with tall mountains on both sides. The mighty Yellow River, the second largest river in China, surges its way form the Qinghai Province to the border of Shanxi and Shaanxi provinces where it suddenly found its way through a narrow valley blocked by mountains on both sides. The riverbed abruptly narrows down from more than 300 meters (984 feet) wide to 50 meters (164 feet) wide. The turbulent water plunges down from a narrow mouth into a gully 34 meters (112 feet) down below, as if water is pouring down from a huge teapot. Hence it gets the name Hukou (kettle spout) Waterfall.
A poet in the Ming Dynasty wrote: “The great river comes out of the Kunlun Mountains, travels through the Yumen Pass and nine bends, to be held back at Hukou”. Hukou Waterfall boasts six wonderful sights: “Smoke Rising from the Water”, “Boat Sailing on the Land”, “Rainbow Playing with Water”, “Raining under the Bright Sun”, “Flying Mountain and Standing River”, and “Thunders in a Fine Day”.
The waterfall drops at a high speed and the waves stir up masses of smoke and clouds, rising higher up into the sky with the color changes from yellow to gray and then to blue. The scene just looks like dense smoke rising from the bottom of the river; hence the local people call it “Smoke Rising from the Water”. This fantastic scene can be seen from several dozens of kilometers away.
The water in Hukou is rapid and torrential, so all the boats from the upper reaches must be pulled out of the river onto to the bank when they arrived. These boats would have to detour around this section, carried by a group of boatmen or shipped by truck before they could be put in the river again. This used to the special sight at Hukou called “Boat Railing on the Land”. But nowadays with the development of the railway and road transportation, it has become part of the history.
Under bright sunshine, the waterfall looks like a dancing rainbow. You can see various shapes of rainbows formed by the rising mist, refracted by the sunshine from different angles. Sometimes rainbows are arched, cutting into the river from the sky like a dragon playing with water; sometimes they are colored ribbons lying across the river; sometimes they become colorful masses which change second by second.
The width of the Hukou Waterfall changes in different seasons, and waterfall presents different colors as the season changes. In spring when the land begins to thaw, ice falls down the waterfall thunderously. In the rainy period of summer and autumn the river flows more rapidly and violently. The waterfall is as wide as 100 meters. The area within a circumference of several dozens of kilometers is enveloped in vapor and sprays. In winter the land is clad in snow and ice, presenting another kind of charming sight.