Antelope Canyon

While in Page, we took a recommendation from friends in the camera club and booked a tour of Antelope Canyon.  Book the photography tour if you want a chance to take your own photos.  If you are on the regular tour you can’t bring a tripod and you will have no time alone in any of the areas.  We found taking photographs difficult even on the special tour.

Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon which is split in two.  “Hasdestwazi” (Spiral rock arches) is Navajo for Lower Antelope Canyon and  “Tse bighanilini” (The place where water runs through the rocks) is Navajo for Upper Antelope Canyon.  They are probably the most photographed slot canyons in America.  Both are in the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.   The canyons are accessible by native guided tour only.  The light in the narrow passageways of the canyons change constantly as the sun moves across the sky.  Light bounces back and forth off the sandstone walls creating a stunning display of color, light and shadow.

Be careful if you go in the monsoon season.  It can be especially dangerous.  Rainwater does not have to fall on or near the canyons to flood them.  There is an extensive basin above the slot canyon that channels water down into the earth.  The water, mixed with sand, picks up speed as it fills the canyons.  This liquid sandpaper gushes through the narrow passageways.  As a result the corridors become deeper and the hard edges of the walls are eroded into flowing, otherworldly shapes.

Flash floods are fatal.  Rain falling dozens of miles away will fill the canyons without notice.  In 1997, eleven tourists were killed by water from flash floods in the lower canyon.  In 2010 a flash flood stranded tourists in the upper canyon.

The forecast was clear the morning we climbed onto a bench seat in the back of the bed of a truck covered by a canopy.   We turned off the highway just southeast from Page and began our off-road journey to the canyon.  Flash floods built our new highway.  It was wide, and the red dirt was scared with dozens of deep groves made by trucks that had gone before us.  The guide raced our truck up and over those tracks.  We warn you part of the tour is the bucking and bouncing in the back of the truck.  I was grateful for the seat belts.  The collective laughter of our party of six bounced off the canyon walls as we approached the entry.

We pulled up beside at least twenty-five other pickup trucks.  Each truck could easily hold a dozen tourists.  As we walked through the canyon “rooms”, I was glad our “photography tour” allowed us 2 minutes of uninterrupted time alone in four different sections of the canyon. 

This must be what it feels like to be in an ant farm….hundreds of us moving through the narrow passageways.  At any turn, there were cell phones and cameras vying for the perfect shot.  It was dusty, chaotic, noisy and crowded…we did our best and because our guide stemmed the flow, we took some amazing shots.


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