02/24/2013 03:32 pm ET

Three Gorges Dam Photos Document Change In China's River Towns

Peter Hessler lived in Fuling, China from 1996 to 1998. As a Peace Corps volunteer, he taught at a local college in this town of 200,000 while the city underwent rapid change, including "the end of government-assigned jobs" and the "sudden privatization of housing." But nothing had a bigger impact on Fuling than the completion of the Three Gorges Dam.

Almost 20 years after his first trip, Hessler returned to Fuling with photographer Anastasia Taylor-Lind for National Geographic, and documented the changes the dam brought to this booming town.

Hessler writes:

Fuling sits at the junction of the Yangtze and the Wu Rivers, and in the mid-1990s it felt sleepy and isolated. There was no highway or rail line, and the Yangtze ferries took seven hours to reach Chongqing, the nearest large city. Foreigners were unheard of—if I ate lunch downtown, I often drew a crowd of 30 spectators. The city had one escalator, one nightclub, and no traffic lights. I didn’t know anybody with a car. There were two cell phones at the college, and everyone could tell you who owned them: the party secretary, the highest Communist Party official on campus, and an art teacher who had taken a pioneering step into private business.

Take a look at a look at the incredible photos of Fuling by Anastasia Taylor-Lind in the slideshow below.

Find out how Fuling has changed in Peter Hessler's story in the March issue of National Geographic.

China's Rising Tide