Riding the rapids on the Colorado River


Q: We would like to take a week's boat trip on the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. Do you know any rafting companies that offer tours?

A: A total of 17 companies run white-water rafting trips through the Grand Canyon National Park on the Colorado River, which extends 277 river miles from Lake Powell in the northeast to Lake Mead in the southwest.

All the outfitters start their trips from Lees Ferry, six miles north of Marble Canyon and downriver from Lake Powell. Most of the trips end at Diamond Creek, some 225 miles downriver, but rafters have the option of completing only sections of the river.

The most commonly offered segments are the Upper Canyon, which consists of the first 87 river miles between Lees Ferry and the Phantom Ranch area, and the Lower Canyon section, from Phantom Ranch to Diamond Creek. A few outfitters continue past Diamond Creek to Lake Mead.

The season runs generally from the middle or the end of April to mid-September.

There are basically three kinds of river craft: motorized, oar (in which a guide does the rowing) and paddle (in which a guide does the navigating and rafters use canoe paddles to power the boat).

Food, portable sanitation facilities and some or all camping equipment and guide services are provided. Reservations must be made well in advance.

Following is a sampling of outfitters taken from a list issued by the Grand Canyon National Park, P.O. Box 129, Grand Canyon, Ariz. 86023; (602) 638-7888. Prices for the first two do not include a 5.5 percent state tax.

* Arizona River Runners, P.O. Box 47788, Phoenix, Ariz. 85068; (800) 477-7238 or (602) 867-4866. Offers three-, six- or eight-day trips in both motorized and oar-powered craft, as well as a 13-day trip that includes bus transport to Las Vegas.

The three-day trip, offered from May 11 to Sept. 16, costs $590 a person. The six-day trip costs $1,198 a person. The 13-day package is $1,415 a person.

* Arizona Raft Adventures, 4050 E. Huntington Drive, Flagstaff, Ariz. -- (800) 786-7238 or (602) 526-8200 -- offers motorized (eight-day), oar (six, eight, nine, 13 and 14 days) and paddle trips (six, nine and 14 days) from May to October. An eight-day motorized trip from Lees Ferry to Diamond Creek is $1,355 a person; oar and paddle trips range from $1,033 to $1,953 a person. The company also offers trips on the San Juan River.

* Canyon Explorations, P.O Box 310, Flagstaff, Ariz. 86002 -- (800) 654-0723 or (602) 774-4559 -- is a family business that specializes in oar and paddle trips. Its traditional trips are six days through the Upper Canyon ($1,100 a person with tax), nine days in the Lower Canyon ($1,590) and 14-day ($2,276) or 15-day trips ($2,425). The Lower Canyon trips include a 7.5 mile hike.

Q: My husband and I will be in Italy in July and August. We are interested in visiting the marble quarries at Carrara where Michelangelo obtained the marble for his statues.

A: The most interesting marble quarries near Carrara in Tuscany, the Cava di Marmo di Fantiscritti and the Cava di Colonnata, arein two valleys.

Although an educated guess can be made about the source of Michelangelo's marble, no one really knows for sure. In the 16th century there were 30 quarries in the area. Michelangelo did not indicate which one he used.

Travelers can visit two valleys behind Carrara where Michelangelo found his marble: the valley that is the site of the quarry of Colonnata and the valley that is home to the quarry of Fantiscritti.

The quarries themselves cannot be visited because they are riddled with machines and wires that cut the marble, and the projectiles these send out are as sharp (and can be as deadly) as bullets.

A drive through either valley can be a pleasant experience, and buses from Carrara pass through both valleys. But even though the drive affords panoramic views, one doesn't get very close to the quarries. It is better to see them by car, and from Carrara there are yellow road signs indicating the routes to both valleys.

An appointment for a guided tour of the Fantiscritti valley can be made by writing to Sara Paolini, 3 Via Bertoloni, 54136 Marina di Carrara (MS), Italy, specifying the date you will be in Carrara and whether transportation is required.

The three-hour tour begins at a sawmill where visitors can see how marble is cut and polished. The next stop is a sculpture laboratory where statues are made, and then there's a drive into the Fantiscritti valley to get as near as possible to the quarries. Tours are given twice daily.

The guides will meet travelers who have their own cars at the Carrara exit on the Livorno-to-Genoa highway or will pick up visitors at a designated spot -- the Carrara train station, for instance.

Tours cost $46 with your own car, calculated at 7,730 lire to the dollar, or $58 if the guide's car is used.

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