Antelope Canyon - Page Arizona

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This page last updated on 12/12/2017
(Fig. 01)
(Fig. 02)
Location: Only a short jaunt from Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon is located east of Page, Arizona in Coconino County and is a part of Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park. Take Highway 98 East. There will be one stoplight (Coppermine Road). Stay on 98 for 2 Miles and you will See Lower Antelope Canyon to your Left, Just west of the Navajo Generating Station. Take a left. Refer to (Fig. 02) above.

Description: Because Antelope Canyon is located on land owned by the Navajo nation, the road to the canyon is gated. Since 1997, the Navajo have allowed access to the canyon only on authorized guided tours, both to protect the canyon from overuse and vandalism and to ensure the safety of visitors. Antelope Canyon is a slot canyon carved out by the same waters that flowed into the Colorado River and carved the Grand Canyon. The canyon walls have been carved into what looks like fluid rock. Water from above Antelope Canyon travels through cracks and caverns in the sandstone until it builds up significant speed near Antelope Canyon. As the flood water rushes and spirals through the present formations, the water continually sands and reshapes the walls into sandstone masterpieces. This water eventually makes its way to Lake Powell and ultimately the Colorado River. Unaccompanied visitors to the Antelope Canyon are prohibited due to potential flash floods. In 1997, 11 tourists were killed by a flash flood. The danger comes from the water accumulating far from the canyon itself. It could rain 10 miles from Antelope Canyon and create a flash flood. See Note (1) below.

Antelope Canyon is the most famous slot canyon in the southwest. More people visit and photograph Antelope Canyon than any other formation of its kind. In short, Antelope Canyon is a canyon that consists of two distinct areas: the upper antelope canyon, also known as Tse' bighanilini, and the lower antelope canyon, commonly referred to as Hasdestwazi. According to Native American history, large herds of antelope once roamed Antelope Canyon, providing the canyon with its name. The canyon is regarded as a spiritual place where Native Americans can connect and seek insight from Mother Nature. Antelope Canyon formed due as a result of erosion caused by flash flooding during the monsoon season. Over time, rainwater rushed across the canyon, picked up speed and washed the ground away.

Trip Notes: The pictures in this post are from a road trip that my wife Connie, Marc Resnic and I took back in took back in October of 2009. To get the most out of our visit, we split up; Connie and Marc toured the 'upper' canyon and I toured the more difficult 'lower canyon. While the Navajo call this canyon "the place where water runs through rocks," most tourists come to know the upper section as the Crack, and the lower as the Corkscrew. The pictures shown here from the upper canyon were taken by Marc.  I took so many photographs here, each beautiful and unique in its own way, that it was really hard to select just a few for posting here. Some provide beautiful color, some unique geometric-like shapes, some smoothed textures like you have never seen before.

The Upper Antelope Canyon is called Tsé bighánílíní, 'the place where water runs through rocks' by the Navajo. Upper Antelope is at about 4,000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above the streambed. It is the most frequently visited by tourists for two reasons. First, its entrance and entire length are at ground level, requiring no climbing. Second, beams or shafts of direct sunlight radiating down from openings at the top of the canyon are much more common in the upper canyon vs the lower canyon (Fig. 03). These beams occur most often in the summer months, as they require the sun to be high in the sky. (con't below)
(Fig. 03)
(Fig. 04)
As you approach the upper Antelope Canyon, there is no obvious clue as to its location. Sometimes called “Corkscrew” Canyon, Upper Antelope Canyon measures a quarter mile long and 130 feet deep. It is reached by traveling a 3.5-mile-long dry (most of the time) sandy wash. The trail seems to end at the base of a red sandstone plateau about 20 yards high - the entrance is a narrow curved slit in the cliffs only a few feet wide. From the entrance, it’s an easy stroll through the upper chamber, which is fairly level. Once inside, the temperature drops as much as 20 degrees as the visitor enters one of the most beautiful of all natural formations.

The sunlight filtering down the curved sandstone walls makes magical, constantly changing patterns and shadows in many subtle shades of color (Fig. 04). Some sections of the canyon are wide and bright, while others are narrower and more cave-like, with no light reaching the sandy floor. After only 150 yards or so, the canyon becomes suddenly much shallower near the top of the plateau. It may take only 3 or 4 minutes to walk straight through, but the canyon is well worth the arduous trek or expensive journey required to get there (Fig. 05). (Con't below)
(Fig. 05)
The Lower Antelope Canyon is called Hazdistazí, or 'spiral rock arches' by the Navajo, is a few miles away from the upper canyon. The lower canyon is nearly 1,400 feet long. The canyon is filled with majestic and narrow passages (Fig. 06) with just enough space for persons to walk single file on the sandy floor, punctuated with occasional shafts of sunlight to shine down from above (Figs. 07 thru 09). The maze of abstract shapes carved from sandstone by twirling winds and water are mind boggling. As you descend further and deeper, making an elevation change of more than 240 feet down, the gentle lighting and textures of the canyon’s sandstone walls create amazing photo opportunities. The sculpted sandstone walls appear frozen in a series of graceful waves, which somehow give the illusion of motion. Even though you have more photo opportunities for capturing beams of light in the upper canyon, the lower canyon definitely provides more interesting twists, turns and shapes. With frequent stops for photo opportunities, the hike from one end of the canyon to the other can take more than three hours. (Con't below)
(Fig. 06)

(Fig. 07)
(Fig. 08)
(Fig. 09)

Pulled TaffyAs you decend down through the canyon there are even some metal steps to aid in walking (Fig. 10). Many of the water carved walls look like 'pulled taffy' (Figs. 11 & 12). When I was a kid back in the 60’s, I worked in Junkin’s Candy & Ice Cream shop at Hampton Beach, N.H. Their main claim to fame was making pure salt water taffies right in front of the customers. The water and wind honed sandstone  ledges look almost exactly like the salt water taffy we used to make back then.

Depending upon the lighting from above you are constantly presented with a variety of ever changing colors (Figs. 13 thru 15). Sometimes you can even recognize objects or faces in the carved sandstone. This is called pareidolia. Check out this page (and then use your browser back button to return here. Examples of Pareidolia (con't below)
(Fig. 10)
(Fig. 11)
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(Fig. 13)
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(Fig. 15)
Prior to the installation of metal stairways, visiting the canyon required climbing along pre-installed ladders in certain areas. Even following the installation of steel stairways, it is a more difficult hike than Upper Antelope. It is longer, narrower in spots, and even footing is not available in all areas (Fig. 18). At the end of the journey, we actually had to walk three sets of steel stairs (Figs. 16 & 19) up more than 125 feet to get back to the surface. The picture below was taken at the top of the canyon’s exit, looking down at where the water would run out of the canyon during the rainy season. Once outside, you have a lengthy, steady uphill climb to get back to the staging area (Fig. 20).
(Fig. 16)
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(Fig. 18)
(Fig. 19)

(Fig. 20)

Using the picture on the left (Fig. 21) that I took at Antelope Canyon, I created a composition titled "LavaMan". Click the following link to view the result and a description of how it was created ... Lava Man - Guarder of the Canyon

(1) Note - Antelope Canyon Floods: Rains during monsoon season can quickly flood the canyon even though rain does not have to fall on or near the Antelope Canyon slots. Flash floods to can whip through from rain falling dozens of miles away upstream of the canyons. Water can funnel into them with little prior notice. On August 12, 1997, eleven tourists, including seven from France, one from the United Kingdom, one from Sweden and two from the United States, were killed in Lower Antelope Canyon by a flash flood. Very little rain fell at the site that day, but an earlier thunderstorm had dumped a large amount of water into the canyon basin, 7 miles upstream. The lone survivor of the flood was tour guide Francisco "Pancho" Quintana, who had prior swift-water training. At the time, the ladder system consisted of amateur-built wood ladders that were swept away by the flash flood. Today, steel ladder systems have been bolted in place, and deployable cargo nets are installed at the top of the canyon. At the fee booth, a NOAA Weather Radio from the National Weather Service and an alarm horn are stationed. Despite improved warning and safety systems, the risks of injuries from flash floods still exist. On July 30, 2010, several tourists were stranded on a ledge when two flash floods occurred at Upper Antelope Canyon. Some of them were rescued and some had to wait for the flood waters to recede. There were reports that a woman and her nine-year-old son were injured as they were washed away downstream, but no fatalities were reported.