The place where water runs through rocks. This is the English translation for the Navajo name for the Upper Antelope Canyon, located just outside of Page, Arizona. For countless years and countless more to come, water has run through the tell-tale red sandstone to form the most photographed slot canyon in the world.
The Navajo Nation Tribe has deemed the canyon a Navajo Park and it is managed by the Navajo Parks and Recreation Department. As such, we were required to book a tour with a sanctioned agency to visit the canyon because we are Non-Navajo. This helps limit usage, prevents vandalism and maintains the area for future Navajo generations
This area, like so many others on tribal lands, is considered sacred as it holds part of the tribe’s history. History, like tradition, is integral to tribal life, and so the land is safe guarded in order to pass down. According to oral history, entering the canyon was like entering a cathedral, where tribe members went to feel reverence for Mother Nature and experience solitude and gratitude. This feeling needs preservation so that all Navajo Nation generations can share the experience.
Upon entering the Upper Antelope Canyon, we immediately recognized the sacred nature of the canyon and understood why it has become the most photographed slot canyon. The sun glints through the canyon ceiling and bounces off the undulating canyon walls over a depth of 120 feet. The red sandstone, colored purple in shadow and gleaming bright red and orange in the sunlight, transitions you from one mystical room to another for a length of 1,400 feet. With every storm the sandstone is newly imprinted by the flow leaving reminders of the force this canyon corrals. This delicate etching makes shapes and colors feel as though they are moving as you walk.
The caveat is that we were herded through with the rest of our tour group as well as groups from other tour companies. We used Adventurous Antelope Canyon Tour (https://www.navajoantelopecanyon.com/tours.html) and though we have no comparison we would certainly recommend them.
The canyon experience of reverence and solitude is hard to come by as a tourist. Non-the-less, the walk through the canyon is completely unforgettable and with the help of or our lovely guide Marla, we were shown places to take pictures and she helped keep others out of our photos. The thing about the canyon is that it’s hard to take a bad picture.
In fact, the world’s most expensive photograph EVER sold, at $6.5 million dollars in 2014, was of the Upper Antelope Canyon. The picture title Phantom was a black and white photo by Peter Lik of a light beam that eerily highlighted the sandy air, seemingly capturing the shape of a spirit.
We are drawn to beautiful places and it’s not always enough to look at a picture. You want to go and see for yourself. It’s like seeing a picture of an old friend, it has value and insights your emotions and memories. But nothing compares to being in their physical presence. Unlike many of our adventures, this one was solely to be in the presence of beauty. The trip was made simple with the help of the tour company and the trek was easy. If you find yourself in Page, Arizona, visit Antelope Canyon.