Lower Antelope Canyon Glows with Shifting Light

By DIANNA TROYER

Walking through Lower Antelope Canyon is like Alice slipping down a magical rabbit hole and finding a wonderland. The popular slot canyon, a 10-minute drive east of Page, Ariz., is a wonderland aglow with shifting golden, terracotta, and violet light reflecting off Navajo Sandstone. An ideal time to tour the canyon is during the off-season in winter and spring.

Our Navajo tour guide led us on a 15-minute hike to the entrance of the canyon, nicknamed “The Corkscrew.” The Navajo word for it means “Spiral Rock Arches.”

Looking at the undulating terracotta-colored sandstone on the surface, it seemed impossible for a canyon to lie beneath us. At the entrance, several flights of metal stairs led us down into the 120-foot-deep canyon.

For the next hour, we learned how steady water erosion, eons of flash floods, and geological forces sculpted and scoured the V-shaped canyon’s smooth walls and narrow sandy floor.

Around each curve along the half-mile path, a different hue of light beckoned us as ever-changing clouds and sunshine shifted above. Depending on cloud cover, shafts of sunlight usually beamed down into the corridors between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

The canyon is a paradise for photographers whose images have been turned into a Microsoft’s Natural Wonders Desktop Wallpaper. It’s also a popular backdrop for graduation photos and weddings.

As if on cue, a bride in her elegant, floor-length white dress and groom appeared around a bend.

The power of flash flooding is evident. Crews regularly   the stairs and haul away rocks, sticks, and other natural debris deposited on the trail after storms.

Equally enthralling is Upper Antelope Canyon five miles away. Nicknamed “The Crack,” it is shaped like the letter “A” with the canyon wider at its floor than its top. The Navajo word for it is translated as “The Place Where Water Runs Through Rocks.”

If storms are predicted, tours are canceled due to the potential for flash floods. Several tour companies in town take reservations, or you can just show up at the canyon and register. The area is managed as part of the Navajo Tribal Park, and tribal guides are required, due to past vandalism.

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