The Alcantara is a river in Sicily and has its source on the south side of Monti Nebrodi. Its mouthis situated in the Ionian Sea at Capo Schiso in Giardini-Naxos. The river is ca. 52 km long.
The name Alcantara is of Arabic origin (al Qanţara - the Bridge) and refers to a bridge from Roman times found by the Arabs. Thucydides called it Akesines Potamos while its Latin names were "Assinus or Assinos" and "Onobala". Cantera was another hydronym adopted by Normans.
The Alcantara has its source at an altitude of 1250m in the municipality of Floresta. On its way to the sea, past the north of Mount Etna, it flows through the municipalities of Randazzo, Mojo Alcantara, Francavilla di Sicilia, Motta Camastra, Castiglione di Sicilia, Graniti, Gaggi, Calatabiano, Taormina and Giardini-Naxos.
Several thousand years ago, the river bed was blocked by a lava flow from the little cinder cone at Mojo Alcantara. As the lava was cooled much more quickly by the water than it would have done otherwise, it crystallised in the form of columns. Over the next millennia, the river naturally eroded a channel through these columns, resulting in impressive gorges and ravines such as the "Gole dell'Alcantara".
The Alcantara river park (Parco fluviale dell'Alcantara) was established in 2001 for protection of the river, and to encourage its use as a relaxation area and tourist destination.
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