Antelope Canyon is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the American Southwest. It is located on Navajo land near Page, Arizona. Antelope is the most visited slot canyon in the Southwest, partly because it is easily accessible and by far the most publicized, and also since it is extremely beautiful, with just the right combination of depth, width, length, rock color and ambient light; many other slot canyons are deeper, narrower or longer, and some have rock that is even more colorful and sculptured, but here conditions are ideal.
Antelope Canyon includes two separate, photogenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon or The Crack; and Lower Antelope Canyon or The Corkscrew. The Navajo name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tsé bighánílíní, which means “the place where water runs through rocks.” Lower Antelope Canyon is Hazdistazí, or “spiral rock arches.” Both are located within the LeChee Chapter of the Navajo Nation.
The sunlight filtering down the curved sandstone walls makes magical, constantly changing patterns and shadows in many subtle shades of color. Some sections of the canyon are wide and bright, while others are narrower and more cave-like, with no light reaching the sandy floor.
The lower canyon is longer and deeper than the upper section, but also slightly more challenging, requiring climbing down ladders in some places to descend several sheer drops. Both parts of the canyon are still beautiful, but any sense of adventure or tranquility is long since gone – best to try one of the hundreds of other Southwest slot canyons for these qualities.
Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and secondarily due to other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the extensive basin above the slot canyon sections, picking up speed and sand as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways are eroded away, making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges in such a way as to form characteristic ‘flowing’ shapes in the rock.
Antelope Canyon is a popular location for photographers and sightseers, and a source of tourism business for the Navajo Nation. Antelope Canyon is visited exclusively through guided tours, in part because rains during monsoon season can quickly flood the canyon. Rain does not have to fall on or near the Antelope Canyon slots for flash floods to whip through, as rain falling dozens of miles away ‘upstream’ of the canyons can funnel into them with little prior notice.