Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon one of two slot canyons located off the highway 98 just outside of Page, Arizona near the Utah border.

Entering Lower Antelope Canyon
Entering Lower Antelope Canyon

Slot Canyons are formed in usually arid regions, where a little bit of rain falls, and fulls the dry rivers of the desert southwest.  The water can flash flood, which picks up speed and debris and scours the landscape.  Overtime, the water forces itself into cracks in the rock and widens the deepens the crack into a deep narrow canyon.   Lower Antelope is a commonly overlooked when compared the Upper Antelope Canyon, although does seem to be gaining in popularity.

Hasdestwazi, or “spiral rock arches ” as it is known to the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation, Lower Antelope slowly exposes itself to you as a small crack in the rock which grows slightly in width, and dramatically  in depth as you climb down into the slot canyon.

Unlike Upper Antelope Canyon which is an easy walk, Lower Antelope Canyon is a steep and deep trail as the passage plunges deeper into the rock.  The Navajo Nation is kind enough to maintain metal stairs to aid the trek, however on my last visit the stars where covered in mud, silt and debris from a recent storm which further sculpts the rock.   Upper Antelope pulls you eyes up into the colorful light above, however there is no real sense of depth.  Lower Antelope Canyon constantly reminds you how deep you really are beneath the surface.

The stairs inside of lower Antelope Canyon show signs of a recent flood.
The stairs inside of lower Antelope Canyon show signs of a recent flood.

Just like Upper Antelope Canyon, a narrow opening at the top of the canyon only allows a little light the enter the canyon.  This light bounces off the canyon walls, and throughout the day, a light show of glowing rock, shadows and textured water sculpted rock offer a wonderful visuals to the visitors.

The sculpted rock and light offer beauty, texture and scenic photographic opportunities, however this beauty hides a danger.  An August 12, 1997 a group of eleven tourists where killed inside the canyon when a flash flood filled the canyon in seconds.  A sole tour guide survived the tragedy.

As I follow the canyon down towards Lake Powell in the distance, I would constantly find my self touching the smooth canyon rock walls, all the while knowing that a summer monsoon miles aware could end my time on this planet.  However, although always a bit uneasy, it is an amazing place and well worth the trip and the remote risk.

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