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CANYON; by Michael P. Ghiglieri; University of Arizona Press; 311 pages.

Michael Ghiglieri couldn't find a book he liked about his favorite place on Earth, the Grand Canyon, so he wrote his own.He's particularly qualified to do so, with advanced degrees in biology and biological ecology, mountains of field research from around the world on his resume and 17 years of rowing the canyon as a professional river guide.

During the off-season when he's not rowing the Grand, he's an assistant professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff.

Like a river trip, the book starts at the Lee's Ferry launch and takes the reader down - down the river and down into the canyon. Ghiglieri takes side trips, guiding the reader through the canyon's geological and exploratory history as he rows.

It's a fascinating story, as full of insights, twists and vistas as the canyons that branch off the main river, many of which Ghiglieri explores verbally. He's as comfortable using words as he is oars.

The canyon and river are personal journeys as well as a professional calling to Ghiglieri - who was featured recently on the KUED-TV program "River of Stone" - and he shares some of the insights he's gained. Anyone who would name two of his children after canyon features (Cliff and Crystal) is serious about the place.

As he guides the reader the 226 miles from Lee's Ferry to Diamond Creek, Ghiglieri describes the enormous geological forces that shaped the canyon, the ancient people who lived in it, the plants and animals that inhabit it, and its current life forms that include fellow river guides and the ever-unpredictable but lovable domesticated tourist.

He makes the point that the canyon is still being shaped, not so much by the blind force of nature as by the short-sighted thrust of Western politics, where water is power and power is money.

It's unfair to single out one chapter or section as the best in the book, but his description of running Lava Falls at Mile 179, a legendary rapid, must rank high in the annals of river-running descriptive prose.

Following him through the thundering whitewater, as time elongates and critical decisions hang on an oarstroke, brings a familiar feeling to a river rat:

"The pit drops out of the stomach, the blood quickens, and you go into a rapid-mode of brain frenzy that passes for thinking: What-am-I-doing-here!-Why-did-I-pick-this-route!-Where-did-that-hole-come-from !-Oh-boy-we're-gonna-eat-it-nowwww!"

It's over.

You and Ghiglieri have made it through Lava. Calm returns, both to the river and the reader.

That's the kind of book it is because that's the kind of canyon it is.

In riverese: Yo, Michael! Good run! Good book!