To my mind the greatest artist is Mother Nature herself. The way that nature uses wind, water, seismic movement and volcanic activity to carve the earth is simply astounding. One great example of the pure beauty that has been created by nature can be enjoyed at Antelope Canyon near Page, Arizona.
This canyon is what is called a slot canyon. That means it is a very narrow, steep-sided canyon that has been formed by masses of water rushing through soft rock, such as sandstone and limestone. Some slot canyons are very narrow, and it is both the shape of the contours within the canyon, and the way the light is filtered and reflected by the steep walls which helps to make slot canyons so spectacular.
Antelope Canyon was called so because it used to be a favourite spot for Pronghorn Antelope to congregate to graze in winter. Today the canyon is incorporated into the Lake Powell Navajo Tribal Park, which arrange guides and permits for entering and hiking or camping within the park.
There are two distinct parts to the canyon, uninspiringly called Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. To the Navajo people the canyons go by more romantic names, being Tse’ bighanilini, which means “the place where water runs through rocks” for the upper canyon, with the lower canyon called Hasdestwazi, or “spiral rock arches.”
Of the two, the upper canyon is the most visited simply because it is located at ground level, is easy to enter and the floor is quite flat so offers little effort to negotiate. In summer, when the sun is high, visitors can enjoy a great spectacle as beams of light penetrate openings in the 120 feet-high walls, creating vibrant colours on the walls and floor of the canyon.
Lower Antelope Canyon is located some distance from the upper canyon, and is less visited. Visitors do need to climb down steep stairs to reach the canyon floor and hiking through the canyon is more difficult. The reward, though, is higher canyon walls and more exquisite rock shapes. The fact that the lower canyon is quieter allows visitors more opportunity to enjoy ambience of the canyon. One other aspect which prevents many people from visiting, is that there is also quite a steep climb out of the canyon.
Visitors can only visit the canyons with a Navajo guide. The reason is because of flash flooding when great rivers of water can flow through the canyons. It is not always obvious when these flood will occur as the water can travel after rains from far away.
Antelope Canyon is a truly spectacular and inspiring place and a visit there is well worthwhile.