The banks of the Shen Nong Stream have been inhabited since at least the Han Dynasty; the primary ethnic group of the river valley has been the Thuja people. Early history of in the Shen Nong Gorge is evinced by the hanging coffins stowed in clefts on the high vertical limestone clefts; it is a puzzle to modern man as to how the heavy coffins were stowed on such steep, ostensibly inaccessible places. The coffins themselves were typically carved from a single layer section of a tree trunk, which was approximately 90 centimeters in diameter; although the lid section was split off to be separate. Some of these coffins can be seen presently from canoes traveling along the Shen Nong Stream. The coffins are typically 30 to 150 meters from the bluff top above and 25 to 70 meters above the river surface. Most commonly a coffin rests on two sturdy hewn poles that have been wedged within limestone cleft or cave to form generally level platform. Many of these coffins have been lost or destroyed due to the three Gorges Dam construction, which has led to inundation of many of these river reaches; some coffins, however, have been retrieved for cultural presentation and archeological study. For example, one such coffin was retrieved about 10 kilometers west along the Yangtze River and is preserved on display at the White Emperor's Palace, within an historical Daoist Temple situated high above the inundation level along the Yangtze.
The Shen Nong Stream Valley is also the site of a number of historical battles in Chinese history. In an early battle, Liu Bei, an emperor of the three kingdom dynasty, incinerated the fleet of Lu Xum, Marshall of the Wu Kingdom, effectively cutting off the pursuit of the latter general. This naval battle took place in the lower reaches of Shen Nong Stream in the Longchang Gorge at the Rang Kou Xi tributary.
Parrot Gully within Yingwu Gorge along the Shen Nong Xi exhibits numerous large horizontal incisions carved high on the limestone, which are vestiges of an earlier aerial plank road; moreover, this trace of earlier civilization may be a clue as to how the coffin sites were accessed via an intricate network of aerial planks. At Parrot Gully Liu Chunjum, a general of the Taiping Dynasty fought a number of battles.
The stream depth is over 155 meters at the mouth of the Shen Nong Stream, while 15 kilometers upstream the depth diminishes to its original state uninfluenced by the Three Gorges Dam, i.e. approximately 30 centimeters in depth over riffles with small rounded stones. Turbidity characteristics of the upper Shen Nong Stream are favourable with respect to most Chinese rivers, with Secchi disk measurements clear to at least 30 centimeters in depth;. The pH of the upper stream is in the range of .8.5. or slightly alkaline.