Photograph of the week: Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona, USA


One doesn’t need to travel to Mars or the Moon when otherworldly landscapes exist right here on earth. Just east of Page, Arizona, USA, located in the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation, is a terracotta-coloured slot canyon called Antelope Canyon. Here, you will find the kind of supernatural beauty that, were you to see it in a photograph, would have you crying ‘Photoshop’.

Lower Antelope Canyon, Page, Arizona, USA

But Photoshopped this place is not. Located just a few hours from the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon consists of two main sections – Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon. Like the Grand Canyon, these two slot canyons have been carved out of the earth by water, but in the case of a slot canyon, that water is of the rushing, roaring kind. Where the Grand Canyon speaks of years of gently flowing waters and tender drama, Antelope Canyon speaks of flash floods and fast, furious spectacle. In fact, the flood waters that created Antelope Canyon originated from thunderstorms over a mesa some 25km away, the strength of the resultant waters such that they forged a path through sandstone with enough power to turn it into narrow corridors of molten-coloured rock.

While Upper Antelope Canyon is more often visited, and photographed, in part thanks to easier access and in part due to the ethereal beams of light it boasts, Lower Antelope Canyon, pictured here, has its own magic to reveal.

Called “Hazdistazí” or “Hasdestwazi” in the Navajo tongue, meaning “spiral rock arches”, but nicknamed “The Corkscrew”, the magic of Lower Antelope Canyon has to be earned. Getting into the canyon requires visitors to climb up and down a series of staircases and ladders, and the canyon floor is far narrower than that of its loftier partner. But its sculpted, undulating waves and curves, in a colour palette that ranges from terracotta to orange to red, are more than worth the effort. Explore hollows that vary from one to three metres (3.2 to 9.8 feet) wide and up to 50 metres (164 feet) deep, as you marvel in yet another of Mother Nature’s unique creations. It’s pure art of the earth.

It’s not surprising, given its mythical proportions and presence, that Antelope Canyon, both Upper and Lower, is a spiritual, sacred monument of the Navajo people. Every four years, the Navajo people have the Canyon blessed as they give thanks to the natural elements that helped form this mystical space. With this in mind, know before you go: Antelope Canyon has been accessible by permit only since 1997 when it became a Navajo Tribal Park. What this means for you is that a guided tour is required to enter the canyon.

The reason for the guided tour policy is two-fold: 1. It is a sacred place. But 2. Flash floods do still occur, with multiple tourist deaths occurring in the past, and the guides are trained to keep you out of harm’s way.

Whatever the reason, many Antelope Canyon tour guides were born and raised on the Navajo Nation, making any tour here one filled with both wonder and a wealth of knowledge.

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Comments (6)

  1. Steve says:

    Who needs Photoshop when you’ve got the natural world?

    No matter how many editing options you’ve got on your software, toolbar nature is always going to be a lot more powerful.

    Nature has got thousands and thousands of years to work on its projects and so much power too with huge forces arising from those old favourites earth, wind, fire and water.

  2. Diana Presley says:

    The guide scheme makes a lot of sense. There’s so much over-tourism around the world that using permits to control numbers is a good idea. Even better is using local guides. Not only does that create employment for the Navajo people it also helps them to keep their traditions alive.

  3. Chris H says:

    I am finally planning a visit to the Grand Canyon for 2020 as part of a big West Coast adventure.

    Has anyone got any recommendations about where you would stay to visit both Antelope Canyons? I’m thinking of a nights accommodation. A full day to take in both Canyons and then back to the B & B or hotel before hitting the road before the next segment of the great expedition.

  4. Jo Fordham says:

    I never knew how this was created before and it’s odd to think the thunderstorms that led to it were quite a decent distance away. Getting into The Corkscrew sounds like a worthwhile challenge! It really is something else, breathtaking and so distinctive. There’s nowhere quite like it! Just goes to show that no matter how good Photoshop may be, the beauty of nature can always beat it.

  5. Deborah says:

    I think guided tours is a good idea from a safety point of view as well as to protect the canyon from tourists because of its sacred importance. Do tourists ever get to see the blessing ritual that happens every 4 years? I think it would be fascinating to see how it’s done.

  6. Jo says:

    I’d love to check this out. I know there’s also a Navajo Parks fee but I think that’s pretty small, so I wonder how much a tour would cost? I bet a photography tour would be incredible, the place is like an Instagrammer’s paradise!

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