Lishui has three origination places, the norh, the middle and the south. The north one is the most important place, origination from Shanmujie of Sangzhi county in Zhangjiajie. The middle one, origination from the east side of the Badagongshan Mountain in Sangzhi and the south place, origination from Longjiazhai of Yongshun County in the Tujia and Miao Autonomous profecture of Xiangxi. The three originations join the main river in Nancha of Sangzhi, then runs east.
It flows into the Dongting Lake at Xiaodukou in Jinshi. Its total length is 388 kilometres.
Cities along the river include