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Lost Valley: Jungles & Canyons Beyond Double Dragon & Danlong Waterfalls 失落峽谷:五峰鄉雙龍瀑布和丹龍瀑布再往上走之冒險

Updated: Oct 29, 2023



What's Beyond the Double Dragon and Danlong Waterfalls in Wufeng Township?

五峰鄉雙龍瀑布和丹龍瀑布再往上走是什麼呢?

 

Lots of people have been to the Double Dragon Waterfall in Wufeng, but what lies beyond - not below, but above?

 

INDEX

 
 
 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

Except where otherwise noted, all recommendations, times, photos, and other information in this post are for drought conditions with far lower than average water levels. Please also see important safety notes for river tracing (below).


Once he showed it to me on satellite imagery, there was no mistaking it: This... THIS was worth the planning, effort, energy, and multiple days in the deep jungle that it would take to reach!
 

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THE ENTRANCE AREA 起溯點

 

Entering Maibalai River on the way to the Danlong and Double Dragon Waterfalls

So let's get this out of the way right away: Lots of people have been to the Double Dragon Waterfall in Wufeng (NOT Xinyi!) and the Danlong Waterfall right next to it. It's a BEAUTIFUL, and pretty easy, trace, it packs in a lot of scenery in a short distance, and you get not one, not two, but three top notch, amazing waterfalls all in one spot right at the end of a bare half hour or so of tracing. There are pictures and information here about that, and I might do a more detailed blog post about it some day, but this... this is not that post. No, this post is about something far, far more challenging and mysterious, and the Double Dragon area is only the beginning.

Having been to the Double Dragon many, many times, and knowing very well how to go downstream and what is in that direction (again, that is not this post), our group recently set out to answer a question we had wondered about for years: What lies beyond it - not below, but above?

We couldn't be sure... but one of us thought he had discovered something amazing, deep inside a remote canyon, just waiting to be revealed.

Swimming towards the Double Dragon and Danlong Waterfall area with a multi-day pack for the push beyond

If you're not familiar, the Wufeng Double Dragon Waterfall (五峰雙龍瀑布), and the Danlong Waterfall (丹龍瀑布) right next to it, sit together at the intersection of two rivers in Wufeng Township of Hsinchu County in Taiwan (台灣新竹五峰鄉). It's important to clarify this - there's another, different, and also very famous Double Dragon Waterfall much further south in Taiwan in Xinyi.

Our Double Dragon, however, is undeniably special. The side river, one branch of the Maibalai River System (麥巴來洗), pours into a deep, natural cul de sac, flows out a few meters, and pours into the main branch of the river system. It then pours right over the much more massive Danlong Waterfall, which in my personal opinion is one of the most beautiful non-curtain waterfalls in Taiwan. Opinions vary of course, but I've spent at least five solid years seeing more waterfalls than you can shake a stick at on this island (and jumping off as many as possible), so in this case I don't mind making an audacious statement about it!

Drought conditions



DANLONG WAERFALL 丹龍瀑布

 

Jumping off of Danlong Waterfall - into a rainbow!

Danlong Waterfall during drought

If that was all there was to it, this would already be an amazing destination. But like your favorite used car salesman said that one time, "But wait - there's more!"


Danlong... is jumpable.


Jumping into the abyss at Danlong Waterfall during normal waterflow


...and by jumpable, I mean JUMPABLE! As in, 18 solid meters (roughly 55 feet - and yes, I know that's not the exact math, deal with it! ;^) of air until you make major contact with a swirling, white pool of water surging up from an abyss of ridiculous depth and surrounded by azure-turqouise water the likes of which, outside of Taiwan, I've only ever seen in places like the Philippines or the Carribean, THAT kind of jumpable.



DOUBLE DRAGON (SHUANG LONG) WATERFALL 雙龍瀑布

 

Double Dragon Waterfall during drought

During normal conditions, the Double Dragon can be difficult to get into!


"Wow!" you say? "But wait! There's STILL more!" I respond, going full in and doubling down on the used car salesman schpeel. You see, even despite Danlong, it's the Double Dragon itself that's the real draw. Not only does it pour into that cul de sac, it's not just one waterfall. It's a pair of twin waterfalls at least 15 meters (45 ft) high pouring - and roaring - over a cliff with equal portions of gracefull ease and raw, surging power. There's absolutely no way to jump this thing (at least not if you want to survive, it's far to shallow at the bottom), but that's not the point.

No, it's when you stand there in the cul de sac, staring up at this pair of massive, watery beasts, feeling the wind and not-rain roaring and spraying all around you, creating their own weather in an unending storm all day, every day, even on a sunny day. It's when you have the audacity to walk between and even behind the twin torrents, when you give in to dilusions of your own grandeur and dare it to knock you down as you venture under the relentless, pounding power of the behemoths themselves, taking the full force all over your body, if only for just a few, fleeting seconds. That... THAT is the point of coming to the Double Dragon Waterfall - and the point at which you realize that there's so, so more to the name of this place than mere poetry.


"Even despite Danlong, it's the Double Dragon itself that's the real draw."

Double Dragon Waterfall seen as few ever see it: from above!


So yeah. That's the famous Double Dragon Waterfall. But what's far less famous, known to but a few, is what lies beyond. Not downstream beyond Danlong... but upstream. Those cliffs, they're completely unscalable by any but the most professional and well equiped of climbers - if that. It would be much easier to jump (or climb) down below Danlong and keep going, or just turn back happy with the amazing day you've already had.


But not for us...


Not that day...


Not knowing what

we knew...


John looks down from above Shuanglong Waterfall (Double Dragon Waterfall)


One of our most accomplished and capable tracers, John, had been pouring over maps and satellite imagery of the upper reaches for years, and he was convinced he had discovered something. Once he showed it to me on satellite imagery, there was no mistaking it: This... THIS was worth the planning, effort, energy, and multiple days in the deep jungle it would take to reach!

Johan pauses to take it all in


After failing to find a mysterious, supposedly easier path he had seen upriver on a map, we had already made two expeditions as a group to find a way around starting in the Shuanglong area. We finally succeeded on the second attempt, but were forced to turn back due to time constraints and how long it had taken us to finally work out the correct path. Make no mistake, that was important! This is advanced tracing and mountainside scrambling and the area can be deadly. It's no exageration to say that one false step on the wrong path could really be your last - it already almost had been for one of the others in our group.

Don't be fooled by the beautiful, obvious, and easy looking path in this picture - I guarantee this is the ONLY section that looks this way!


So now we finally came to it. The stars alligned (read, our schedules alligned), the forecast was amazing, and the current drought meant that water levels were unusually low. We assembled a group of three highly capable and experienced tracers and set off, determined to get as far into the canyon as we could.

Onward!

Day 0 was predictable: Drive out, camp near the trailhead, get ready for an early start. On day 1, we pushed it hard going in, went right past the Double Dragon with only an brief stop to enjoy its beauty (and no jumps off of Danlong that day), and proceeded up along the trail we had discovered on our previous expedition. Even with two GPS map tracks to follow, and two people who had been there before, the trail was hard to follow at points and progress was slow on the path that passed over the top of Shuanglong Waterfall.

Make no mistake, this is advanced tracing and mountainside scrambling and the area can be deadly. It's no exageration to say that one false step on the wrong path could really be your last - it already almost had been for one of the others in our group.


CAMPING ABOVE DOUBLE DRAGON 在雙龍瀑布上面露營

 

The View from the top of the Double Dragon

Heading down the 'correct' path - straight down a loose, and treacherous, rockslide!


We crossed a section of precipitous cliffs as high above Shuanglong as the waterfall itself was above the cul de sac, climbed down a very steep and unstable rockfall, and ended up about 10 meters upstream from the tops of the twin wyrms themselves. Rather than take the time to go down for the view again, we pressed on and looked for the place we had noted previously as a good spot for a base camp.

The campsite itself was easily accessible, and yet not at all visible or obvious from the river unless you knew the signs to watch for. It was an old, flat area carved out of the cliff face itself. Whether it had been a Japanese military structure or a logging camp wasn't immediately obvious, but it was clearly man-made. Massive boulders and old foundations were arranged all along a now-forgotten, nearly unrecognizable road. Whoever built it, and whatever it was used for, today it has been almost totally reclaimed by the jungle. Only barking deer and other local animals travel that road these days!

Once we arrived, we set up camp, dropped the bulk of our gear, and had a quick bite to eat. It was still early, about 10:00 or so, and we grabbed our tracing gear and continued onward. Soon, very soon, we would be entering the remote unknown.


We set up basecamp inside the abandoned remnants of a mysterious and long-forgotten structure, deep in the jungle and far above the high cliffs and landslides of Shuanglong Waterfall

ONWARD! 繼續往前吧!

 

The excitement was palpable. We quickly passed by what we had dubbed, 'the lunch spot' - a small, sunny, riverside clearing where we had eaten on our previous expedition, and after not much longer came to the place where we had turned back. While we knew there was a farm 'just' a few hundred meters elevation above, and consequently a road, none of us had been able to find a way to connect to it. This was the area where John had tried to come down from the road, and also up from below on our first trip, but as it turned out, steep canyon walls and dense jungle were just a few of the obstacles giving that particular few hundred meters some truly outsized umph in the fight to keep us from getting either up or down!

Leaving what we affectionately call, 'the lunch spot'


Then, the real adventure finally began! As we took our first steps into new territory, the river looked, at first... disappointingly bland. I've personally been up a lot of rivers here in Taiwan, and I find that many, many of them reach a point where they just get smaller and smaller. While for some people (like John) this is interesting and exciting (let's trace to the source!), for me it's a little boring. My take: smaller = less waterfalls, less shimmering blue swimming transit sections, and just less fun all around.

But then it happened. Just as I was settling in for some mediochre, if not alltogether boring, discoveries, there was a pool and a small waterfall with just a bit of cliff-like structure to the side. Then another, but a bit nicer. And another... and another! Far from getting less interesting, the river was finally starting to reveal just a few of its hidden gems. Little did I know then that this was just the beginning!

Beautiful Maibalai River in Taiwan's Wufeng Township (美麗麥巴來溪,台灣五峰鄉)

As we continued, we encountered this Taiwanese beauty snake deep in the remote jungle canyon. Though not poisonous, or even dangerous, it was at least 8 cm (3 in) thick and 2 meters (6 ft) long! It slithered away and hid under a rock as we tried to take pictures and video - more terrified of us than anything else.

So yes, I've gone on for an unusually long time about all of this, but hey, I love a good adventure story - especially a true one! Let me just skip ahead and cut to the chase: One after another the pools kept coming. One after another they got more and more impressive. We passed a tall, slender, and very pretty waterfall coming in from a smaller side stream along the way (I climbed up around it later, but let's just say I don't feel any pressing need to go back and explore further up that particular stream).

Standing at the top of the sidestream waterfall

The beauty and the feeling of adventure grew grew in tandem as we pressed deeper and deeper into the unknown

Then, all of a sudden, we came face to face with a beautiful little waterfall! It was only about 8 meters tall or so, but it was pouring straight over a sheer cliff with no obvious way up or around it. But - and yes, here I go again - wait, there's more! This wasn't just any medium sized pretty little waterfall (we've all seen plenty of those!). There's a massive boulder sitting smack in the middle of its little semi-cul de sac, angled just right to walk right up and get a beautiful, front and center view of the waterfall and the whole area in general.



THE SENTINEL WATERFALL 守衛瀑布

 

Little did we know that this beautiful little waterfall would prove to be a nearly impassible obstacle! Later on, once we knew what lay deeper in the inner recesses of the canyon, we decided to name it The Sentinel. In case that's not enough of a clue, let me just spell it out clearly: This was just a prelude of what was to come, a mere guardian of the true climax of our journey!

The Sentinel Waterfall, guardian of... well, take a look below!

Time for lunch!


After several attempts to find a way up or around it, we determined that it was pretty much impassable. There was one potential way to do it... but it was highly suspect and pretty risky. Being the unabashed daredevel of our group, I tried to climb up to lower a rope, but there was a certain point - so, so tantalizingly close to the top - where, 'that looks like it might be doable' turned out to be, 'that feels like it's a really, really bad idea... better jump back off while I can still be safe about it!'.

Me (above) and John (below, on the way out) Jumping off of The Sentinel Waterfall

We decided to take a lunch and swimming break - as much to check the depth for safe jumping on the way back as anything else. Then, onwards!

Since it was basically impossible to safely climb the waterfall without professional climbing gear, we had to turn back in search of a way around. After some searching and a few false leads, we finally managed to find a way up a steep cliffside. It took teamwork but, as luck would have it, I ended up being the first to find a way up in the end. John soon followed, and I let down a rope for Johan once I had found a more suitable anchor point. More exploration, scrambling, and bushwhacking followed, but we finally managed to find a way back down to the river just above The Sentinel.

Coming down the cliffside to the river just above The Sentinel Waterfall

Looking back down at the rock in front of The Sentinel where we had eaten lunch



THE DRAGON'S PALACE WATERFALL 龍宮瀑布

 

The deeper we ventured, the more obvious the valley's slow, inexorable transformation into a seroious canyon became. Broad stretches had long since given way to taller, deeper, and more challenging terrain, and each section demanded more skill and energy than the last.

Taking a break before the final push


Suddenly, as I caught up to the others after a round of photos, I heard John yelling out, "Hey, you might as well stop. There's DEFINITELY nothing up here worth seeing! Just turn around and go home now!"


Now, if you ever meet John, you will quickly learn that there are few things in the world that he loves more than massive, heaping piles of malarkey. One of those things, however, is waterfalls. Beautiful, powerful, massive, remote waterfalls. And the instant that I realized he was combining the two, I knew: We had finally arrived!

Standing ahead at the top of another rock scramble, something had stopped the others where they stood. They stared ahead as if transfixed, and beyond them in the distance I could just make out a pair of waterfalls. Then they dropped down behind the rocks and out of sight. I scrambled up, ready to see what we had come for...

John and Johan swim across The Dragon's Pool towards

the Inner Sanctum of the Dragon's Palace and

The Lost Dragon Waterfall


...and suddenly discovered what it was they had been staring at! There, just out of view, awaited an immense, deep, crystal clear pool of water. It shimmered and sparkled, shifting and changing between hues of azure and the deepest of blues, beckoning and calling out as if to announce that this was no ordinary place we were about to enter.

By this point, John and Johan were already most of the way across what we would soon dub The Dragon's Pool. Rather than try to catch up, I again took out my camera. This had to be recorded!

John stands inside The Inner Sanctum

Climbing into The Inner Sanctum from The Dragon's Pool

Shards of jagged rock at a rockfall inside The Inner Sanctum. This is why you need a helmet!


Then it was my turn. I stached the camera in my waterproof backpack and jumped in. Once I was across, it was time for one last rocky scramble of a climb out of the water before I entered the Inner Sanctum, where the Lost Dragon Falls poured down from above.

The Lost Dragon Waterfall inside The Inner Sanctum of the Dragon's Palace

It was an awe-inspiring sight, the Lost Dragon thundering down into yet another deep, wide, and impossibly blue pool that only the most determined tracers would be able to reach. Yet even as we stared in wonder, we were reminded that, in this drought, the mighty waterfall before us was a mere shadow of what it would be in its full power. Indeed, the satellite images that had spurred us on in the first place made it clear: This, like Danlong Waterfall in the non-drought picture above, would be a massive, thundering behemoth under normal circumstances... and all that much more difficult, demanding, and technical to reach.

We spent a bit of time in the Inner Sanctum, but then it was time to return. That night in camp we couldn't stop talking about the adventure we had had and the wonders we had seen that day. We had pushed as far as we reasonably could without advanced climbing gear and reached our goal in the process. What lies beyond The Dragon's Palace? Well, that's the next question, and at this point we have only satellite imagery to guess from. But, like the Palace before it, the unexplored, even deeper reaches of the Maibolai River Canyon sing their siren song... so it's only a matter of time until we find a way to journey beyond.


 

Note: The names for the Dragon's Palace area are our own inventions. There may be names for these waterfalls, but if so, we were unable to find them. But hey, those names are part of the memories from our time there, and any experience is only as good as the memories you take after it's finished!



THE NITTY-GRITTY 細節

 

Time:

Double Dragon and Danlong:

a few hours there and back.


The whole thing:

2-3 days.


Water sources:

Before the Double Dragon Waterfall, you should probably bring your own, due to runoff from local farms and heavy tracing traffic.


After that, you can generally rely on the river, though there are still a few farms far above. See also notes on water (below).


Gear and provisions:

Double Dragon and Danlong:

River tracing-appropriate shoes and clothes (see remarks), helmets (advised), waterproof backpack, life jackets for anyone who is not a strong swimmer, water filter or other treatment options (see below), a waterproof headlamp or flashlight, a lighter (always!). A basic rope may also be useful, but our group did not find it highly necessary.


The whole thing:

THIS IS A VERY ADVANCED TRACE! It is dangerous, don't take it lightly! You will need all of the above, plus definitely rope, a first aid kit, a headlamp, and a helmet. You will also need overnight gear and provisions. You MUST be proficient at trailfinding, jungle scrambling, moving safely up and down loose rockslides. It is seriously advised not to go alone. Take apropriate precautions. If, and ONLY if, you feel confident in all of this... well, go have a blast, it's amazing!


Sun protection:

Definitely


Double Dragon and Danlong:

Yes for teenagers 13 or older. Families who regularly do outdoor activities like hiking and river tracing together could try with children as young as 8, though they may find this strenuous. This will likely be strenuous for adults or teens in less than good physical condition. Good swimming skills, and possibly life jackets, will be essential. Use your best judgement.


The whole thing:

Yes for teenagers 15 or older in good physical condition, though they may find this strenuous. This will likely be strenuous for adults or teens in less than good physical condition. Good swimming skills, and possibly life jackets, will be essential. Use your best judgement.


Dog friendly:

Under no circumstances!


Camping /overnighting options:

See above, and the points indicated in GPX track 2 (for going beyond Double Dragon and over the top).



GPX file 1 of 2: Double Dragon Waterfall 1 - The Map Room 雙龍瀑布-地圖寶庫

Double Dragon Waterfall 1 - The Map Room 雙龍瀑布-地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 7KB


GPX file 2 of 2: Double Dragon Waterfall 2 (above) - The Map Room 雙龍瀑布(以上)-地圖寶庫


Double Dragon Waterfall 2 (above) - The Map Room 雙龍瀑布(以上)-地圖寶庫
.gpx
Download GPX • 10KB



Remarks:


River tracing gear and provisions (for basic not requiring rappelling and rock climbing skills and gear):

  • Clothes: Should be ok for swimming and getting dirty/torn, protect from scrapes. Quick drying, non-cotton, close fitting. UV reflective for hot traces, wetsuit for colder traces.

  • Boots: Neoprene or other river tracing specific boots (not shoes, NOT rubber or fishing boots!) to prevent blisters. High tops to keep stones out, soles to provide good grip and prevent slipping. I prefer felt soles for extra padding, especially after prior injuries. Some prefer alternatives which prevent organisms from being transferred between various streams and rivers.

  • Helmet: Designed for rock climbing.

  • Backpack: Waterproof. IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.

  • Rope: Non-climbing rated, floating rope (that does not absorb water and get heavy) with knots is helpful, but NOT for doing serious climbs. Use ONLY for pulling weaker swimmers through more challenging stretches of water, and perhaps helping with scrambles up short sections of difficult terrain. For advanced climbing or rappelling, get advanced climbing rope, gear, and training!

  • Life jacket: If you are not a strong and confident swimmer.

  • Phone case: IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.

  • Water filter or other water treatment options.

  • Waterproof headlamp or flashlight. IPX 8 rating (protected when immersed in water over 1 meter / 3 feet) recommended.

The Map Room recommends Fenix headlamps, and personally uses the 1600 lumen Fenix HM70R Headlamp - (Amazon affiliate link*)

  • Lighter (always!)

  • Optional gear: A bandanna, headband, or other light cloth for wiping sweat is also often useful when you are not fully immersed in water.

Drinking water:

Choose water from a fast moving, clean source. This kills certain parasites, like giardia. Check upstream for polluting factors (dead animals, droppings, etc). Look for signs of pollution (vehicle tracks, lots of footprints). It's best to filter, and possibly either boil or otherwise treat it as well.

The Map Room personally uses and highly recommends the Sawyer Squeeze water filter (NOT the Sawyer Squeeze Mini - Amazon affiliate link*)

Important river tracing safety notes:

  • Strength and water levels of rivers change with rain, seasons, and other factors.

  • ALWAYS check the weather in advance of a river trace. If there is rain upstream, it is not advisable to go, due to the risk of flash floods.

  • If it has rained recently, rockslides are more likely. If the sun then comes out and evaporates recent rain, they are more likely still. Wear a helmet, and be sensible!

  • Stopping to rest in rockfall areas, under rock overhangs, or near sheer cliffs is not advisable due to the risk of rockfalls. Look for a wider, open area with less steep rock walls.


 

So now you're ready to go! Get out there, enjoy nature, learn to hike, and have an amazing time!

 

All information on this page is intended for reference only. Preparing adequate food, water, and gear for your adventure, as well as following local rules and laws are, of course, your own responsibility! Always make sure that you check the weather for outdoor destinations, be careful and sensible for enclosed spaces like tunnels and bunkers, and bring a lighter - you never know when it could save your life! Now... get out there and have an amazing time!

 


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