The White River area is one of the few excursion routes in suburban Beijing that continues to see frequent travelers during winter. [Photo: likefar.com]
Teams of outdoor enthusiasts come here all the way from downtown Beijing about a three-hour drive away to take a long walk along the banks of the White River or skate on its broad surface which turns into solid ice each year between the end of December and February.
The river runs through a valley bordered by gently rising hills on both sides. Village cottages are scattered by the riverside some distance away. Far from the hustle and bustle of city life, the river offers a perfect escape for city dwellers.
The river also has served as a background setting for some scenes in the 2010 movie "Let the Bullets Fly" by Chinese actor-turned-director Jiang Wen. Today, along one section of the river, visitors can still see part of the train used as a prop during the filming.
Another attraction along the route is Longtanjian, or the Dragon Ponds waterfalls. Located in a canyon about 700 meters deep, the Dragon Ponds are of different sizes and shapes. Local legends say the ponds are where the water dragons used to reside and people in ancient times would pray for rain or an auspicious year. Streams of water run down the steep canyon, forming several waterfalls that freeze during the winter and hang on the cliff walls like silver belts.
Walking the total length of the river usually takes about four to five hours. Because the landscape is flat and not too rocky, it poses no challenge to hikers. Two small villages --Qingshiling and Sihetang -- located at the ends of the river serve as stopovers for hikers to rest or dine.
There are several buses at the Dongzhimen bus station linking Beijing to the two villages. However, the intervals between buses are relatively long, so it is better to inquire before arranging a trip. Visitors should bring their own food because the White River area is not completely commercialized for tourism, and there are hardly any restaurants.