Located just outside of Page, Arizona Antelope Canyon is arguably the best known slot canyon on the planet, yet few people will know its name outside of desert enthusiasts. For those unaware of these structures, slot canyons are extremely narrow canyons, carved by water, which are typically just a few feet wide, but may be just a few inches. The typically arid dessert can instantly turn into raging torrent of water in just a few minutes with just a few inches of water. This water picks up speed, and debris such as sand, which scours the landscape including rock. Antelope Canyon is found on Navajo Tribal land, and accessed to the canyon is only allowed with a Navajo Guide.
Antelope Canyon is actually two separate slot canyons located a short distance from each other on either side of US 98. Upper Antelope Canyon is know as Tse’ bighanilini, which in Navojo means “the place where water runs through rocks.” Travel to the Canyon is done via Navajo run transport and you are allowed about 2 hours for your visit. The site is at about 4,000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above a stream bed.
Access into the upper canyon is simply a walking into a canyon. The trail is flat and sandy and very easy to manage. Upon entrance into the Upper Antelope Canyon you are immediately struck by the texture and color of this place. Just inside the entrance, is a small chamber which seems to great you, and the pink and orange glow of the light bouncing off the walls force your eyes up. The geography is such, that the narrow opening high above you lets in a small fraction of the available light, and that light bounces down towards the bottom of the canyon.
Relatively short, Upper Antelope Canyon may be traversed in just 5 minutes. However, this is simply a waste of your time if you just rush through. The only complaint of the canyon, are the other visitors. As a photographer, I have many photographs ruined by people turning a corner and walking into my frame while I was making an exposure. This does not mean they were rude or anything but patient, but rather an unfortunate side effect of composing photographs with long exposure times in a 18 inch wide slot Canyon.
As with all beautiful things, we must share this location and Antelope Canyon is a must stop location every time I visit the area. There is a hidden danger, in that the very forces which sculpt a slot canyon are still very much in play and every few years a new story will appear about someone being killed in a slot canyon due to a sudden flash flood.
I would like to thank the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation for keeping this location sacred and available to us.