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Flag Lake Waterfall Chain: 7 Waterfalls, Only Half a Day! 小旗湖瀑布群:如何讓你在半天內收集7個瀑布!

Updated: Apr 27


 

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"Life is like that sometimes. No matter what you plan, things are bound to happen that you can't see coming. But if you roll with the punches and go with the flow, you might find that you're far happier by accident than what you had been hoping to do on purpose!"

Introducing this week's adventure:


Flag Lake Waterfall Chain: 7 Waterfalls, Only Half a Day! 小旗湖瀑布群:如何讓你在半天內收集7個瀑布!


 

With seven waterfalls jam packed into a half day, beginner and intermediate friendly river tracing route, Flag Lake Waterfall Chain in Nantou County's Zhushan Township (台灣南投縣竹山鎮) definitely does not disappoint!

 

*Please note that The Map Room participates in the Amazon Associate Program, and other affiliate programs, and may earn from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

 

Parking and Trailhead

Flag Lake Waterfall Chain trailhead bridge

It had been one of those weekends. You know the kind: your well-laid plans fall apart, and when you try to pick up the pieces, the weather works against you. You find an alternative location with good weather, but after hours of driving to get there, something happens and your plans are foiled again. So the story goes...


Flag Lake Waterfall Chain parking

I had gotten a ride down south with my friend Travis, and after everything that had gone wrong he was feeling pretty frustrated, and neither of us really knew that part of the island all that well. Lucky for us, our friend Asher (aka Xiao Fei) came through in a pinch and told us about Flag Lake Waterfall!


Walk down right next to this

"There are four waterfalls there, and it's right on your way back north" he said. We decided to give it a go, and it was the best thing to happen to us all weekend! Little did we know we were in for SO much more than just four waterfalls!


Flag Lake Waterfall Chain trailhead

We showed up at the trailhead, parked, threw on our gear, and headed down into a steep, narrow, beautiful canyon with the look of a place really prone to a lot of rock falls. Helmets on - this wasn't somewhere to mess around!


Heading down!

The trail down wasn't hard, but looking back up at the bridge from below we suddenly felt like we were deep, deep down in some forgotten, forsaken, and otherworldly place.


Looking back up at the bridge from below

Beginner Waterfall and Swimming Area


Taiwan never ceases to amaze - here was a river tracing destination that felt like it belonged more in Jurassic Park than the modern world!


David stands in front of the first waterfall

High beginner / Intermediate Waterfalls


It wasn't long until we go to a pair of waterfalls, one right behind the other. There were some old and suspect looking ropes and webbing, but it was either up and over or turn back mere minutes into the trace, so up and over we went!


Ropes at the beginning of the Flag Lake Waterfall Chain
Travis climbs up to the first waterfall
View of the ropes from above the waterfall

Fortunately for us, there were several ropes to be used at the same time, so it was much less dangerous than it might have been with just one old rope. We got past without any problems, though beginners would definitely want to take their time here.


The incredible beauty of Taiwanese river canyons

Soon we found more waterfalls... and more... and more! We didn't know it as yet, but we were in for at least seven main waterfalls that day, plus lots of smaller ones.


Travis swims across a natural jungle pool to another waterfall at Flag Lake

We swam across pools, took photos and videos, jumped, and had a great time. It was such a relief after all that had gone wrong! That's why you never give up, either in a trace or in life: You know where you've come from, and it might feel pretty lousy, but if you keep on going, you never know what's waiting for you just around the next bend!


Standing in front of the next waterfall
Climbing up the left (river right) side of the waterfall to explore what lay beyond

Each new waterfall seemed to have a pretty convenient way to get around it, though some skill and care was required. For us, with our experience, they seemed pretty easy, though the less experienced would want to be a bit cautious.


A smaller waterfall pours into a beautiful tropical swimming pool
The rope going up this waterfall was useless, but we found a way around

Once we got to this waterfall, we ran into something really, really weird. There was a rope coming down, but when we started climbing up, it just kept moving. We would pull, and it would come down. We would pull more, and it came down more. It was clearly attached to something and resisted as we pulled, but meter after meter kept coming down all the same.


Climbing around the right (river left) of the waterfall and pool

That clearly wasn't a good place to go up, so we gave up and looked around the other side. Sure enough, there was an older, shorter rope right there where I expected to find one. It squeaked and creaked as we pulled on it, so we were careful not to put too much weight directly on it, using the hand and foot holds to the side instead.


Travis takes a break in a swimming hole at the top of the waterfall

Once were were up, we took a look at the weird rope. It went all the way up to the top of the canyon and looked like it was attached to an old cable that was running across. We kept pulling to see how much more would come down, but even though it kept giving resistance, we still never got to the end of it.


Emerging from the water like a navy seal
Sometimes the most important thing is to have a little fun!

After a little break and a bit of ridiculousness in a nice pool, we kept on going. At first it looked like the stream might be petering out, but we knew it was coming down from a pretty steep ridge and probably had more secrets hidden ahead.


Seeing this waterfall reflected in the canyon pools below was one of the most beautiful parts of this river trace!

We reached yet another big, beautiful waterfall just a bit further upstream. It was really surprising to see something that big after how low the waterflow had seemed just before. There really was something about this canyon that made the volume of water look a lot smaller than it really must have been.


Seeing this waterfall reflected in the canyon pools below was one of the most beautiful parts of this river trace!
Travis stands at the top of the largest waterfall of the day
Gazing back down into the canyon from the top of the waterfall
The river flows below a tree limb lodged between the canyon walls
This beautiful, natural swimming pool and waterfall jump were one of the highlights of the entire river trace

We found a way up on the right (river left) and soon came to the most beautiful swimming pool and jump spot. It shimmered blue, green, and turquoise in the bright sunlight and we couldn't help staying a while.


Canyoning carabiners were installed all along the canyon

Despite how remote and untouched this Garden of Eden seemed, there were signs the whole way that we were far from the first to visit. These rappelling anchor points were all over, looking new, strong, sturdy.


The layers of mudstone became more and more beautiful as we went deeper into the canyon

It had been less than an hour and a half at a relaxed pace when we reached this stunning canyon. The walls were made of layer upon countless layer of mudstone and made it almost look like it had been designed or engineered rather than created by mother nature.


Travis stands in a cliffside cave under our final waterfall of the day

This was something new. The whole trace had been pretty amazing so far, but now we were entering a whole new kind of terrain.


We were awestruck by this beautiful waterfall, pool, and cave, and by the massive boulder lodged in the canyon above!

We went in, wondering what we would find around the bend... and there it was! This amazing waterfall was waiting for us, the culmination of our time in the wild that day.


The sun came out and lit up the waterfall area like something out of National Geographic

We swam across the pool and climbed up the natural stairs into the mini-cave underneath. A veil of water fell on one side, framing the view back down the valley. The late afternoon sun, which had slipped behind the clouds, suddenly emerged and lit up the whole place.


The view back down the canyon past the water curtain at the waterfall cave entrance

Colors danced all around us and all our troubles, concerns, and worries seemed washed away in one beautiful moment of joyful peace and beauty. This was it. This was what it as all about!


Sunlight lights up the cavern behind the waterfall

We stayed there a while, and the world seemed to melt away. There was nothing else beyond this surreal place and this beautiful moment.


The waterfall poured down the layered mudstone cliff like so many stairs

All too soon, it was time to start heading back. There were more rappelling anchor points high above at the top of the waterfall, but we hadn't been planning for a trace or rappel, so we had no way to get up. Maybe we could have backtracked and found a way up from further down the canyon, be we were running out of time as well.



The time had come to turn around and head home. But it had been an amazing and unexpected adventure that had turned our whole weekend around! Everything else had been forgotten, and we were in high spirits the whole way back. Yes, there might be another week of work about to start, but these waterfalls, and the countless thousands more hidden all over Taiwan, would always be there, waiting, beaconing, calling us back to the wild.


Travis looks up at the waterfall at the end of our adventure

Life is like that sometimes. No matter what you plan, things are bound to happen that you can't see coming. But if you roll with the punches and go with the flow, you might find that you're far happier by accident than what you had been hoping to do on purpose!


Keep


looking


up!



THE NITTY-GRITTY

 

IMPORTANT NOTE:

All recommendations, times, and other information are for average conditions with average water levels, and are for reference purposes ONLY. Please also see important safety notes for river tracing (below).


Length of trace:

Minutes to the first set of waterfalls (nice for NOVICES / BEGINNERS); 2.3 km from the parking / trailhead to the final waterfall of this post (good for BEGINNERS WITH MORE EXPERIENCED FRIENDS / INTERMEDIATES).


Time:

It took us minutes to the first waterfalls and swimming pools, and 1:25 from the parking area to the point where we turned around, with plenty of time for swimming, jumping, videos, and pictures.


Water sources:

Just bring your own! The area is surrounded by farms and roads, so you don't want to drink it even if you've filtered it.


Food:

Bring snacks, or a lunch, to enjoy on this trace.


Gear and provisions:

River tracing-appropriate shoes and clothes (see remarks), helmets, 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.


Sun protection:

There is a lot of shade, but you might need it at least occasionally nonetheless.


Probably for children 8 and older (to the first area). Children with outdoor experience, proper safety equipment, and experienced adult supervision could go further, but use careful judgement on this! Good swimming skills, and possibly life jackets, will be important.


Dog friendly:

Yes, but only for the first, novice - beginner swimming area and waterfalls in and near sight of the parking area. Dogs will not be able to get past here.



GPX file: Flag Lake Waterfall Chain - The Map Room 小旗湖瀑布群 - 地圖寶庫

Flag Lake Waterfall Chain - The Map Room 小旗湖瀑布群 - 地圖寶庫
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Download GPX • 46KB



GOOGLE MAPS LINK:

Parking and Trailhead: 23.620303, 120.659079






Check out the Map Room Members' Area for more maps, GPX links, and other members only perks!


Remarks:


Safety:

This trace is entirely in a steep canyon the whole way, so helmets are highly recommended, and you should definitely not go during high rockfall conditions. There are a few places where you need to cross pools, so swimming skills, and possibly life jackets, will be needed.


Parking:

Park right at the trailhead!


Water:

With roads and farms in the direct watershed area of this trace, it is not recommended to drink the water. It's best just to bring clean water with you.


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 for high-quality, durable headlamps for hiking and river tracing (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:

When sourcing water in the wild, 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.




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, be active, and have an amazing time!

 

Loved this article? Make sure to check out TMR's growing collection of river tracing articles!


Got questions or comments? Can you think of something we missed? Join in the discussion and leave a comment below. At the end of the day, we're just outdoors enthusiasts like you, and we'd love to hear from you!

 

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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*Please note that The Map Room participates in the Amazon Associate Program, and other affiliate programs. Some of the links on The Map Room may refer to Amazon or our other affiliates, and as a member of these, The Map Room will receive a commission at no additional cost to you. We ONLY endorse products we ourselves use, have used, or would use personally!

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