Taroko Gorge, also known as “Marble Gorge” because of the abundant supply of marble in the area, is an impressive 19-km-long canyon, located north of Hualien on Taiwan's east coast, not far from the Pacific Ocean. This part of Taiwan is rising because of the subduction of Philippines Sea Plate under the Eurasian Plate. Some 100 million years ago, the enormous pressure lifted the area above the surface of the ocean and the heat and pressure turned the limestone rocks into marble. Eventually, the erosive power of Liwu River carved a path through the marble to create Taroko Gorge. The gorge is located just 60 km from the coast, but is home to some of the tallest peaks in Taiwan at over 3,400 meters.
Until the 1950s only a trail ran through the gorge. Today the Central Cross-Island Highway runs across the wall of the gorge. Despite its name, the Central Cross-Island Highway is a narrow and winding mountain road with numerous bends. The Tunnel of Nine Turns, is a popular spot that takes drivers dramatically close to the edge of the gorge. This part is now strictly pedestrians only as vehicular traffic is routed through another tunnel.
The Central Cross-Island Highway is listed as one of the most dangerous roads by the website dangerousroads.org because of the rugged and unstable terrain. Heavy rain from typhoons often dislodge soil and rocks onto the highway making sections of it unpassable. Flooding occurs widely both as a result of the increased discharge of the river and as a result of water cascading onto the road from the adjacent cliffs. The area is prone to seismic activity.
As one drives through the gorge, they will encounter numerous tourist spots including a Zen monastery, and an old settlement of Truku aboriginals now with museums and handicraft shops. The gorge terminates at a tiny village of Tiansiang where there is a beautiful pagoda and a temple.
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