Nature always keeps us amazed with its beauty and wonders. There are many places on earth that we may not know ever existed because they have some unbelievable features that are not common in our world. Antelope Canyon is one of those places. Located along a large wash that drains into Lake Powell, on Navajo land near east of Page, Arizona, Antelope Canyon is one of the most famous slot canyons in the western United States. If a storm is coming, all tourist traffic in the canyon is stopped because Antelope Canyon is a place where the power of nature is never questioned.
Antelope Canyon got its name from the pronghorn antelopes that once grazed in the area. It is not known exactly when people first discovered Antelope Canyon, but according to local Navajos, who have lived here for generations, the canyon is a place where cattle grazed in winter.
The canyon consists of two parts: Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Upper Antelope is at about 4000 feet elevation and the canyon walls rise 120 feet above the streambed. It is a popular location for photographers and sightseers and has been accessible by permit only since 1997. The canyon’s entrance and entire length are at ground level. Beams of direct sunlight radiate down from openings in the top of the canyon. These beams occur all year long but are more common in the summer months when the sun is higher in the sky.
Upper Antelope Canyon
To get into the canyon you have to select the type of tour for yourself. If it is just a casual or sightseeing tour then you will be charged $25 per person. This tour is guided and is a wonderful way to experience the awesome views of Upper Antelope Canyon. The tour starts by boarding a truck which transports you to the mouth of the Antelope Canyon. Your guide will take you on an easy journey through the canyon stopping in areas that are popular for photos and also sharing the cultural stories. The tour is quite informative as you will come to know about the history and geology of the canyon within 1 hour. Nothing can describe this work of Mother Nature and experiencing this beauty will leave you breathless.
If you love capturing the precious moments of your journey in camera then you can opt for photo tour which is longer than a casual tour. It lasts almost 2 hours and giving you a better chance to get some amazing photos. You always have the Navajo guide with you showing the most popular places in the canyon for unique photo opportunities. This tour can be done anytime of the day in the morning hours 11am to 1pm because it is the time when you will have nice light throughout the canyon with less people around. This is the time when the sun is at its perfect place displaying the famous light beams seen in many photos over internet.
You can get some soft colors if you opt for tour in late afternoon 1pm to 5pm. By this time the crowds are much smaller and the canyon can provide a more spiritual and relaxing experience. The canyon becomes quite popular in summer for photo freaks.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Lower Antelope Canyon is more difficult to access because there is no entrance from the ground level. You must climb down ladders to the canyon floor. This part is a little shallower than the upper one and the famous light beams don’t occur here as often. But still, it is pretty popular with tourists. After the tragedy of 1997, sirens were installed at the entrance to warn visitors in case of sudden and unexpected storm in the area that could cause a flash flood.
The Flash Floods
Antelope canyon and other slot canyons in the area have been formed by the forces of nature. Flash floods make rainwater gather in a basin above the canyon. The water gains speed as it rushes through the narrow passages, smoothing the canyon’s edges and deepening the crevice. Each flood carries with it a lot of sediment and debris, which is deposited on the canyon bed. Sometimes a flood can cause closure of the canyon for months. At a horrible incident, a flash flood in 1997 killed 11 tourists with one survivor who was their guide.
The rocks that make up Antelope Canyon are the petrified remains of prehistoric sand dunes formed by erosion of the sandstone by flash flooding, rainwater especially heavy during the monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the edges that form the characteristic ‘flowing’ shapes in the rocks. At times the water cut its way into the sandstone with such tremendous force that it created eddies and whirlpools, which formed spiraling walls referred to as the Corkscrew formation. Looming overhead at almost every turn are many large overhangs with spiraling grooves carved into the sandstone creating breathtaking sites and images.
Antelope Canyon is surely one of the most exquisite gifts of nature that is generally overlooked by people traveling to Arizona. You will find yourself in completely different world so it is worth a visit.