The most photographed slot canyon in the Southwest is known by various names—The Corkscrew, The Crack, and the Spiral Rock Arches. The Navajo, however, named it first and best— Tse’ bighanilini—which means “the place where water runs through rocks.” No matter what you call it, all of these descriptions actually refer to different areas of the same sculptured masterpiece—Antelope Canyon—located on Navajo Nation land near Page, Arizona. Antelope Canyon is comprised of two separate but equally photogenic sections— Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. The upper section is the most visited because of its easy access and flat sandy floor, whereas some hiking and ladder climbing is required to tour the lower section.
A slot canyon is a narrow canyon formed by wind and water that has scoured through rock—usually sandstone, limestone, granite or basalt. Antelope Canyon is sandstone. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide. Some can measure less than three feet across at the top, but drop 100 feet or more to the floor of the canyon. Although wind played a role with creating Antelope Canyon, it is mainly flash flooding that slowly striated the sandstone into graceful, flowing shapes. As rainwater runs into the broad basin above the slot canyon sections, it picks up speed and sand, which then smoothes the sandstone into elegant spirals.
Flooding still occurs in the canyon. A terrible flash flood in 1997 caused many fatalities, and another in 2006 resulted in a five-month closure of Lower Antelope Canyon. To ensure your safety, access to Antelope Canyon is by guided tour only. The Navajo Nation is very strict about this rule. Many professional tour companies operate out of Page, so don’t miss an opportunity when you’re in the area.
Antelope Canyon is definitely one place you don’t want to be without a camera! Standing at the bottom, you’ll see a palette of colors created by the angle of the sun. Depending on the time of day, the sunshine can create beams of white light similar to a spotlight, and at other times it appears blue or purple. The sandstone itself seems to change from deep reds and rusty oranges to chocolatey browns in the blink of an eye. Nothing can describe this work of Mother Nature. You really must experience this natural beauty in person!