Ibike Korea People-to-People Program


Photo essay: Yeongsan River -
Damyang, Gwangju

Yeongsan River Trail, (130 km, 80 mi) Mostly riverside and dike-top trail, with the occasional headland.
Points of Interest:  beautiful hills, rivers and valleys, Damyang "Bamboo Town" and Gwangju "Art Town of Korea".

Damyangho (lake), Damyangdam, Damyang, Korea Terminus of the Yeongsan River Trail, Koreaterminus of the Yeongsan River Trail is at Damyangho, KoreaThe northeastern, upstream, terminus of the Yeongsan River Trail is at Damyangdam, with Damyangho (lake), less than 10 kms north of Damyang.  Seen to the left "in the land of the morning calm" a slogan of Korea, which in the fall is often accompanied by some fog.
Yeongsan River Trail, Damyang, Korea Yeongsan River Trail, Damyang, KoreaBicycling through farming communities, Damyang, KoreaThe trail starts out passing rice fields and fields of flowers. An alternative route runs through the middle of the rice fields and farming communities.
Metasequoia trees, Damyang, Korea

Metasequoia trees, Damyang, KoreaMetasequoia trees, Damyang, KoreaMetasequoia trees, Damyang, KoreaParallel the river, near Damyang are 4 kms of Metasequoia trees (a relative of cypress and cedar) that were planted along the Rd 24 in the early 1970s when the Ministry of Internal Affairs officially designated the road as a “boulevard.” At that time, the saplings were only 3 to 4 years old and their branches stretched sparsely out into the sky; now, the trees have grown so high that they seem to block out the sun! Thanks to these stately trees, in 2002 the Korea Forest Service selected the boulevard as one of the most beautiful roads in Korea.  Part of the colonnade of trees can be enjoyed on foot and part of it still lines the road.

Yeongsan River, with fountain, Damyang, Korea Around Damyang the Yeongsan River is very engineered and the trail is wide, active and a little dangerous.  The river is complete with a mid-stream fountain.

The adjacent Gwanbangjerim forest is also engineered. The first trees were planted along the river Seong Iseong (the vice envoy to Damyang) in 1648, during the Joseon period (1392-1910), in a response to annual flooding. In 1854, 30,000 workers were mobilized to improve the river bank and forest. The forest now occupies a huge are from Mt Chuwol and Yongchu Peak on the north; Mt Gwangdeok to the east; and Deokjin Peak, Mt Bonghwang, and Mt Gobi to the south. Seong Iseong was honored posthumously for his clean-handed work during his tenure. Because of this Gwanbangjerim is said to be imbued with the spirit of pure love and love for the common people.

Damyang, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Damyang, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea

The Gwanbangjerim and Yeongsan River Trail attract a mix of walkers (from infants to elderly), beginning bicyclists and oversize quad-cycles. They all seem to have a propensity to swerve and turnRestaurant tables overlooking the Yeongsan River, Damyang, Korea hastily, without check to see who might be in the space they are moving into, nor without any signal or indication they intend to change position on the trail. Fortunately most of the crowd is moving pretty slowly, but it still pays to stay alert.

To keep the active visitors happy the top of the dike is lined with restaurant, which provide tables over looking the river.

Bamboo forest, Damyang, Gwangju, Korea Bamboo bench, Damyang, KoreaBamboo art, Damyang, KoreaAnother noteworthy forest near Damyang is the Bamboo Forest. Damyang considers itself to be the bamboo capital of Korea. Consequently it is the venue for the annual bamboo festival and biennial International Bamboo Expo, with all manner of things bamboo.
Artist's house and studio, Damyang, Korea


Damyang has also become a magnate for creative people in general and several artists have built houses and studios here.

Damyang, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Caution sign, Yeongsan River Trail, KoreaCaution sign, Yeongsan River Trail, KoreaContinuing southwest, away from the built-up area the trail is smaller. Initially separate lanes for wheeled and non-wheeled modes (left), and further out, one lane for everyone to share (right).

I am always a fan of the caution sign that has the bicycle launching itself off of an embankment (right).

Myeonangjeong (pavilion), Damyang Korea Myeonangjeong (pavilion), Damyang KoreaOn the hill in the forest is the rather modest seeming Myeonangjeong (pavilion) of Song Sun (1493-1592). The complex was built after SongView from Myeonangjeong (pavilion), Damyang Korea retired for government service.  Song hardly retired. The pavilion hosted discussion on national affairs with other prominent scholars and was a study hall for many up and coming young scholars. (It has been restored many time.)

It has an expansive view. It is all personal preference, but unfortunately the view is not improving over time.

Yeongsan River, Korea Yeongsan River, KoreaGenerally the river doesn't have much drop to it in this section, but this means that the trail is very flat as well.  The flow of the river is further reduced by low weirs that cross it.  These are supplement by fish ladders (left).

At low water there is a lot of marsh and wet land. It doesn't attract as diverse a variety of bird life as I would have expected, but this might be seasonal.  There were plenty of herons poaching a meal.

Cow barn, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Cow barn, Yeongsan River Trail, KoreaThe trail can be located in the flood plain next to the river or on top of the dike parallel with the river. I tend to like the latter because the high vantage point provides more diverse scenery, both of the river and the agriculture in the area..

At this point we passed a cow barn.  In Korea, neither milk cows or beef cow graze in pastures.  They are totally raised in barns -- often identifiable by there blue roofs and yellow siding.

Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Farmland, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Farmland, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Farmland, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea
Gwangju housing, Yeongsan River Trail, Korea There is more infrastructure the trail nears Gwangju, the sixth largest city in South Korea, with a population approaching 1.5 million. Just in the housing project photographed here, there are at leastDeokheungdeagyo (bridge), Yeongsan River Trail, Gwangju Korea seven cranes in operation.  It is only one of many such projects.

If rivers create boundaries, bridges are what can re-connect people.  In Korea, bridge do more than just bridge -- the design, art and architecture stand out as well.  The bridge shown here is the Deokheungdaegyo.

Lighted in-trail graphics in Yeongsan River, Gwangju, Korea Lighted in-trail graphics in Yeongsan River, Gwangju, KoreaLighted in-trail graphics in Yeongsan River, Gwangju, KoreaIf you have a late arrival you will learn that the Yeongsan River Trail has a special feature near Gwangju in the form of imbedded lighted signage. While the graphics are lighted at night, the trail itself has no illumination and generally very faint or non-existant edges stripes.
Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Off of the trail, the bicycle-friendliness of Gwangju is dubious.  There is a map that shows "bicycle facilities" such as shared lanes and separate paths, but in the context of local driver behavior these don't amount to much.  The photo to the left shows a bicycle path (the green pavement).  In additions to a lot of business driveways that cross it and a generally uneven surface, drivers us it as a linear parking lot.
Yeongsan River Trail, Korea Red Shoe, Gwangju Museum of Art, KoreaGwangju calls itself "Art Town of Korea." To support this claim there is Art Street, Gwangju Culture & Art Center, Gwangju Museum of Art, Gwangju Folk Museum, numerous specialty museums and gallery, Gwangju Biennale and Gwangju Design Biennale (the last two from September to November in alternating years.)

Just passing Folk Museum and Art Museum, there were free, outdoor performances in traditional dance and gayageum (a traditional Korean zither-like string instrument, with 12 strings, though some more recent variants have 21 or other numbers of strings) [It is related to other Asian instruments, including the Chinese guzheng, the Japanese koto, the Mongolian yatga, and the Vietnamese đàn tranh.]

Gwangju Folk Museum, Korea Traditional dance performance, Gwangju Folk Museum, Korea Gayageum Performance, Gwangju Museum of Art, Korea Traditional dance performance, Gwangju Museum of Art, Korea
Chungjangno (shopping street), Gwangju, Korea

Chungjangno (shopping street) at night, Gwangju, KoreaChungjangno (Shopping street), named after the posthumous title of General Kim Deok-ryeong, Chungjangno Street was the site of the 1980 Gwangju Democratization Movement. Today, it is Gwangju’s major fashion district, comparable with Myeongdong Street of Seoul. The streets of Chungjangno are lined with shopping malls, clothing stores, restaurants, cafes, movie theaters and various other attractions, providing an intensive experience with the modern culture of Gwangju. It is the city's hub of fashion -- trendy, traditional and tasteless -- as well as venue for diverse performances. And it doesn't slow down in the evening.

Gwangju Student Independence Monument, Korea The Gwangju Student Independence Monument is dedicated to the Gwangju Student Independence Movement which took place in October and November 1929, against the occupation and rule of the Japanese from 1910 to 1945. It is considered the second-most important Korean independence movement in the period of the Japanese occupation, with the March 1st Movement (Seoul, 1919) considered the most important.

The same section of the backdrop to the Gwangju Democratization Movement, also known as Gwangju Massacre. This was a popular movement in the city of Gwangju, from May 18 to 27, 1980. Official reports acknowledge 170 people may have died. [At the time anyone who disputed the official death toll could be arrested. However, census figures reveal that almost 2,000 citizens of Gwangju disappeared during this time period.] During this period, citizens rose up against Chun Doo-hwan's dictatorship and took control of the city. In the course of the movement, citizens took up arms (by robbing police stations and military depots) to oppose the government, but were ultimately crushed by the South Korean army. The event is sometimes called 5·18 (May 18), in reference to the date the movement began. There is a mapped May 18 Historical Pilgrimage.

Democracy Square Fountain, Gwangju, Korea Lighted trees near Chungjangno, Gwangju, KoreaThe Chungjangno area doesn't slow down at sunset during much of the year. Lighted fountains and trees keep it interesting and if the visit coincides withStreet performance space, Gwangju, Korea on of the many festivals there are likely to be street performances.

The performance that had occurred at the location to the right was interesting. The musicians were South American Andean flute players, but they dressed in North American plains Indian ceremonial wear, including feathered headdresses and the set is decorated with pictures of native North American heroes and fashion accessories.


Seomjingang Lower Yeongsan


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