The riparian zone of the Three Gorges Reservoir (TGR) has experienced substantial erosion that may severely deteriorate the reservoir ecosystem. To calculate soil erosion characteristics, field investigations have been conducted in the TGR area and 12 erosion-monitoring transects have been set in the middle TGR. The results showed that the dominating drive forces are water wave, gravity and surface runoff. In summer when the reservoir ran at lower water levels, wave erosion led to bank instability and bank collapses. Simultaneously, due to a number of heavy storms, surface runoff erosion was also severe. In other seasons when the reservoir ran at relative higher levels reaching the highest level in winter, water wave prevailed due to the wide range of water surface and heavy waterway transportation. Soil erosion was the most severe in the mainstream where higher frequency and intensity of waves occurred. The rates of wave erosion were around 37 mm/year with the highest being 53 mm/year, and surface runoff erosion was up to 15 mm/year in the main stream riparian zone.