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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Antelope Canyon in Arizona

Antelope Canyon is one of the most-visited and snapped slot canyons in the American Southwest. It is located on Navajo land near Page in Arizona. Antelope Canyon includes two separate, photogenic slot canyon sections, referred to individually as Upper Antelope Canyon or Crack and Lower Antelope Canyon or Corkscrew.

Antelope Canyon was formed by erosion of Navajo Sandstone, due to flash flooding and other sub-aerial processes. Rainwater runs into 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.

The name for Upper Antelope Canyon is Tse bighanilini, which means "the place where water runs through rocks." It is the most frequently visited by tourists, due to two reasons. First, its entrance and entire length are at ground level, no need to climb. Second direct sunlight radiating down from openings in the top of the canyon is much more common in Upper than in Lower. Sunlight beams occur most often in the summer months.

Lower Antelope Canyon, called Hasdeztwazi, or "spiral rock arches" by the Navajo, is located a few kilometers away. Prior to the fitting of metal stairways, visiting the canyon required climbing along ladders in certain areas. After fitting of stairways, it is more difficult hike than Upper Antelope it is longer, narrower in spots, and even footing is not available in all areas. At the end, the climb out requires several flights of stairs.

Antelope Canyon is 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. Photography within the canyons is difficult due to the wide exposure range made by light reflecting off the canyon walls.

Despite these limitations, Lower Antelope Canyon draws a considerable number of photographers, though casual sightseers are much less common there than in Upper. The lower canyon is in the shape of a "V" and shallower than the Upper Antelope. Lighting is better in the early hours and late afternoon.

Antelope Canyon is visited through guided tours, because rains during monsoon season can rapidly flood the canyon. On August 12, 1997, eleven tourists, including seven from France, one from the United Kingdom, one from Sweden and two from the United States, were killed in Lower Antelope Canyon by a flash flood. The lone survivor of the flood was tour guide Francisco "Poncho" Quintana, who had prior swift-water training. At the time, the ladder system consisted of amateur-built wood ladders that were swept away by the flash flood. At the fee booth, a NOAA Weather Radio from the National Weather Service and an alarm horn are stationed.

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