The Grand Canyon

The name itself reflects the awe which this special place engenders. Join faculty leaders Bereket Haileab and Jim Fisher on an adventure that will allow you to experience the canyon in an extraordinary way, with the time and opportunity to begin to get to know it. The itinerary and approach was created and sustained for many years by trip leader Beth Schwarzman ’66, geologist and leader of 10 previous Carleton Grand Canyon trips, who passed away in 2012. The 2015 trip is dedicated to her memory.

This is Real Adventure Travel

We will ride some of the biggest white-water rapids in North America, hike intriguing side canyons where there is no trail, camp on beaches along the river, and be free of many of the comforts and distractions of modern life–-no couches, phones, TV or e-mail. Instead we will spend our time with more elemental things–-the river, the weather, the rocks, and each other. This is a participatory trip; everyone will help do camp chores, carry their own baggage to their campsite, hike up and down steep rocks, and even learn something of reading the water in rapids.

Our group of 20 Carleton alumni and friends will travel in dories, beautiful, stable, and exciting, which will be rowed by skilled professional boatmen guides–this is the best way to see the Grand Canyon, and are what John Wesley Powell used when he first ran the canyon in 1869.  We will be repeating history!

We will be outdoors 24 hours a day, clambering in and out of boats, camping, hiking, running the river, and living in one of the most beautiful places in the world.

There are anticipated rigors of the trip; good health and physical condition are musts. Please note that it will be hot, that there is little protection from the sun, that it may rain or blow, that the shoreline is rough and rocky, and that the river water is cold. No unusual skill, strength, or experience is needed beyond ability to move about easily on uneven terrain and the willingness to take things as they come in a wilderness setting. However the following considerations may help you determine if this expedition is a fit for you. Can you:

  • Ascend and descend two flights of stairs carrying a 20 pound bag without using a handrail?
  • Rise from a seated position on the ground up to 30 times a day?
  • Step up on a chair, stand up, and return to the floor easily?
  • Balance a plate of food on your lap while eating?

Faculty Leaders

Bereket Haileab is Professor of Geology at Carleton College, where his main teaching responsibilities are mineralogy, petrology, and geochemistry. Dr. Haileab began his geology career in 1980 and has traveled extensively in Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Tanzania. His research career in East Africa began in 1985 with work at the Shungura formation under the supervision of Francis Brown. He also worked in Middle Awash, Ethiopia, and at Gadeb prehistoric sites in central Ethiopia. Dr. Haileab’s research interests are in the geology of the Hominid-bearing localities in East Africa, specifically of the Turkana Basin, northern Kenya and Ethiopia. As a geologist, he mapped volcanic ash deposits used to determine the ages of many early hominid fossils throughout Kenya and Ethiopia. In the early 1990s, he served as instructor at the Koobi Fora Paleoanthropology Field School, Kenya. In fall 2008, Dr. Haileab served as the Director of the Associated Colleges of the Midwest (ACM) program in Tanzania, where he took 22 students to study Ecology and Human Origins. He has been teaching at Carleton since 1993, and has led several field trips in the U.S. With Nancy Wilkie, he co-led last year’s Alumni Adventures Trip to Ethiopia.

Jim Fisher, John W. Nason Professor of Asian Studies and Anthropology, Emeritus, at Carleton College, received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Chicago. His geographic interest is South Asia, particularly the Himalayas, and he has done fieldwork in Nepal off and on over the last 50 years. As a visiting Fulbright Professor, Jim spent two years helping start a new Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Nepal’s Tribhuvan University. At Carleton, in addition to introductory courses, he taught courses on South Asia, anthropological theory, biography and ethnography, and anthropology and humor. In 2009, after 38 years at Carleton, Jim retired and went to Bhutan to help found Royal Thimphu College, Bhutan’s first (and only) private college, by becoming its Chair of Sociology and Anthropology. Jim traveled with Beth Schwarzman on the 2007 Grand Canyon trip, and most recently led the 2013 Alumni Adventures Trip to Bhutan.

Basic Logistics

We will meet in Flagstaff, Arizona in the late afternoon of August 7th. An informal welcome reception and dinner will be held, followed by an orientation from our outfitter. We’ll re-pack our belongings into waterproof bags and sleep indoors for the last time on the trip! The next morning we’ll take a 3-hour ride across the Painted Desert to Lee’s Ferry on the Colorado River,  where we’ll join our boats and boatmen, load our stuff into the boats, and push off on a spectacular journey. On August 22nd we will emerge from the canyon at Diamond Creek, tanned, reinvigorated, and with our minds full of grand images, to travel back to Flagstaff. Most people will probably spend the night in Flagstaff before heading home the next day.

Pricing and Registration

$4,268 per person, plus $20 per person for the pre-departure dinner on August 7.


  • The river trip itself from launch to take-out including all meals
  • August 7 welcome reception and dinner
  • Transportation between Flagstaff and the river
  • Professional guides and boatmen
  • Tents and sleeping gear
  • Waterproof bags for personal clothing and sleeping unit
  • Study materials including a waterproof river map, and drawing materials

Not included:

  • Gratuity to boatmen ($200 suggested per traveler)
  • Transportation from your house to Flagstaff and back
  • Accommodations in Flagstaff before or after river trip


An $800 deposit is due with registration.  This deposit is non-refundable.

An additional payment of $2,100 was due by December 1, 2014.

The balance of $1,388 per person is due by January 31st, 2015.

Any cancellation must be made in writing.

After December 1st,  2014, refunds will only be made if we can fill the space on the trip.

Please note: Because of the way Grand Canyon trips are structured, payments will be refunded only if we can fill the space on the trip. We strongly recommend that you purchase travel insurance, and we’ll send information with registration.

TOUR OUTFITTER:  Arizona Raft Adventures, operated by Alexandra “Alex” Elliott Thevenin ’97 (daughter of Jessica Youle ’68)