The Jialing River is 1119 km long. Its headwaters are the Bailong River and Xihanshui. The stretch from the confluence of the two rivers at Lianghekou in Lueyang (Hanzhong city), Shaanxi, to Zhaohua is considered to be the upper reaches of the river. The middle course is between Zhaohua and Hechuan. Below Hechuan to where it joins the Yangtze in Chongqing is the lower reaches of the river.
The Jialing River's most notable characteristic is its sinuous course. From Zhangwang Miao (Temple of Zhangfei) in Guangyuan to Longdongtuo in Hechuan, the distance as the crow flies is only slightly more than 200 km. However the river itself travels over 600 km. The most tortuous part of its course is between Nanchong and Wusheng.