Shapotou is situated on the southern edge of the Tengri Desert, 20 km south of the Zhongwei county seat. The Yellow River cuts through mountain valleys, through the Heishan Gorge, turning abruptly into Zhongwei. The sudden bend slows down the rapids, forcing the river to flow gently to irrigate the fertile land on both its banks.
In 1984, the state set up a natural reserve in Shapotou, covering an area of more than 13,000 hectares, with the main aim of protecting the Tengri Desert scenery, natural desert vegetation, and wildlife. The former Ministry of Railways set up China’s first desert plant garden at Shapotou. The shifting sand-control method used in Shapotou has also been applied in Gansu, Qinghai, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and northeast China.
Shapotou has now become a tourism zone on the southeastern edge of the Tengri Desert. Its unique combination of sceneries of the desert, the Yellow River, high mountains and oases really appeal to visitors. In addition, the singing sands, and tours on camelbacks and sheepskin rafts are truly exhilarating experiences.