The spectacular Antelope Canyon has been described by landscape photographers as “a place of celebration for the eye, mind, and spirit.” This little-known sandstone canyon is a natural work of art where light, color, and shape intermingle in an awesome display of exquisite beauty that changes throughout the day. The canyon is a narrow crevice divided into two sections (Upper and Lower Canyon) that have been scoured out of a mesa. One can stroll into the Upper Antelope Canyon, but the Lower Canyon is only accessible by climbing down ladders from a narrow slot in the ground. The effect of light playing on the canyon walls is staggering. Strong orange and yellow colors brighten the upper reaches, but as the light diminishes, the lower walls turn to shades of purple and blue. The contrast of light and shade emphasize the canyon’s rounded contours in a harmonious feast for the eyes.
The best time to visit is at midday when the sun is directly overhead, and single beams of light shine right down to the canyon floor. Indeed, certain points in the canyon are famous for these beautiful shafts of light that occur for only a few inspiring minutes of the day.
Antelope Canyon is known as a “slot canyon,” which normally start as narrow fissures on the surface of a sandstone plateau. If the fissure is on a slope, the powerful erosive force of flowing water can turn the fissure into a drainage channel, carving down into the sandstone. The result at Antelope Canyon is a narrow, deep channel with wild, undulating contours and hollows that range from two to five feet (one to three meters) wide and up to 164 feet (50 meters) deep.
To really appreciate the wonder of this place, try sitting in one of the canyon’s darkened chambers in the morning and watch it come to life in a blaze of color, light, and shadow as the sun passes overhead. Antelope Canyon lies a few miles east of Page, Arizona. Access is only permissible with a guide since flash floods can strike suddenly, even in apparent good weather.