How deep is my canyon

Photographer/explorer Richard Fisher will go to Hades and back to document valleys and canyons of the world

by A.J. Flick
Tucson Citizen
February 11, 1998


Richard Fisher has been to Hades and back. That is, the intrepid Tucson photographer has found a canyon in Greece where a turquoise river still flows, thousands of years after serving as the inspiration for the mythical River Styx.

In Greek mythology, the Styx encircled Hades, the land of the dead. Like most people, Fisher had heard of the Styx, but he was unaware the myth had been inspired by a real place.

Vicos GorgeFisher, a canyon expert, was exploring Vicos Gorge in northern Greece a couple of years ago. He was on a quest to determine whether it was the deepest canyon in the world, as stated in the 1996 Guinness Book of World Records.

"We think of the Guinness world book as a guy doing one-fingered push-ups," says Fisher, "but in actuality, they really have good scientific facts - all kinds of things about the earth." Indeed, the '96 book included a quote from Fisher about the Yarlung Zangbo valley in Tibet, said to be the world's deepest.

Fisher was startled to see the Vicos listed as the world's deepest canyon. He even called the Guinness people in Great Britain and challenged their claim.

Fisher had never been to the Vicos, so he set out to see for himself. While there, he encountered a group of kayaking Austrians who urged him to explore a canyon in southeastern Greece that contains the Styx, which is now called the Aheron River. Fisher remembered reading about the River Styx in high school. He was intrigued.

Most books refer to the Styx being in a cave, not a canyon. But the more research Fisher did, the more the descriptions of the Styx led him to believe it truly was in a canyon. "I was very, very excited, because from my travels and studies, I knew many of the Native American legends about our canyons Zion, Grand Canyon and so forth. How the cultures related. Even in China, Tibet."

"I had no concept that there was anything concerning canyons in European (legends)," he said. "Our culture is largely based in Greek Culture. But I couldn't find any thread between that and canyons."

Aheron River"And so after 25 years of exploring canyons, to find out that one of the major mythological legends is an actual place, and it's an actual canyon was really exciting for me." Plus, he added, the Aheron is set in a particularly beautiful canyon, not at all like the foreboding images we have of the Styx and land of the dead. The river gets its bright turquoise color from the limestone over which it flows.

"It's a great place to go. It's not really highly developed for tourism, but there are good services," he said. "It'd be a place I'd really recommend if you want to get off the beaten path and do some pretty serious hiking." The nearest big city to the Aheron is Parga, on the coast of the Ionian Sea.

Fisher's observations on the Vicos and the Aheron will be included in an updated edition of "Earth's Mystical Grand Canyons," (Sunracer Publications, 1995).

Fisher's next adventure will be to continue his challenge to the Guinness Book of Records' deepest canyon claim. Fisher, who recently was invited to join the prestigious Explorers Club of international adventurers, plans to set out for a remote region of Tibet, where he suspects a deep canyon might bump the Vicos out of the record book.

Fisher said while exploring the Vicos, he met many friendly natives who are obviously proud to live in the "world's deepest canyon." "I kind of feel bad that here I am trying to take away their title," he said.

"But then I had an idea, In my next book, I'm going to call the Vicos 'the Grand Canyon of Europe.' Then maybe they won't feel so bad."

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