A slot canyon is a narrow canyon, formed by the wear of water rushing through rock. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide.
The mysterious and beautiful Antelope Canyon is one of the most spectacular slot canyons in the world.
It is sculpted into beautiful undulating curves and hollows that vary from one to 3 meters (3.2 to 9.8 feet) wide and up to 50 meters (164 feet) deep.
Antelope Canyon includes two separate, scenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon.
In English, Upper Antelope Canyon [photo belw] is called “The Crack” but the Navajo know it as Tsé bighánílíní or “the place where water runs through rocks.”
Upper Antelope Canyon is more popular for two reasons. First, its entrance and entire length are at ground level, requiring no climbing. Second, beams or shafts of direct sunlight radiating down from openings at the top of the canyon are much more common in Upper than in Lower. Beams occur most often in the summer months, as they require the sun to be high in the sky. Winter colors are more muted. Summer months provide two types of lighting. Light beams start to peek into the canyon March 20 and disappear October 7 each year.
Lower Antelope Canyon has been given the nickname “The Corkscrew” while the Navajo term referencing it is Hazdistazí for “spiral rock arches.”
Lower Antelope Canyon [photo belw] is located a few miles from Upper Antelope. This canyon is a little shallower than Upper Antelope Canyon and the famous light beams do not occur there as often as in the other.
Prior to the installation of metal stairways, visiting Lower Antelope Canyon required climbing in certain areas. Even following the installation of stairways, it is a more difficult hike than Upper Antelope. It is longer, narrower in spots, and even footing is not available in all areas. Despite these limitations, it draws a considerable number of photographers, though casual sightseers are much less common there than in the Upper canyon.
Antelope Canyon got its name from the pronghorn antelopes that once grazed in the area.
Today, Antelope Canyon is a popular location for photographers and sightseers, and a source of tourism business for the Navajo Nation. It has been accessible by permit only since 1997, when the Navajo Tribe made it a Navajo Tribal Park.
Antelope Canyon is the most-visited and most-photographed slot canyon in the Southwest America.
Flash flooding still occurs in the canyon and may, at times, result in up to several months of closing.
On August 12, 1997, eleven tourists were killed in Lower Antelope Canyon by a flash flood. Very little rain fell at the site that day, but an earlier thunderstorm had dumped a large amount of water into the canyon basin, 11 kilometers (7 miles) upstream.