The beautiful Antelope Canyon
One of my dreams was to visit Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon outside LeChee in the Navajo Nation Off-Reservation Trust Land in Arizona. A slot canyon is a long, narrow channel carved by water into sandstone or other sedimentary rock. I thought I would never be able to see it, but in the summer of 2021, we found a guided tour. There was a time when you could visit the canyon by yourself but, a previous visitor caused so much damage that nowadays you can’t go into the canyon without a guide. There are other slot canyons in the area, but the most picturesque in my opinion is the Antelope Canyon. Slot canyons constantly change over time and may not be there forever. Water and wind erosion deepens and widens it; eroded particles and sediment from occasional flowing water can fill it. Slot canyons are narrow but deep, and from the road they appear like a crack in the landscape.
We were really lucky to be able to visit Antelope Canyon. It had just opened to tours after a long hiatus. It was just as beautiful as pictured in so many places in books and the internet. We saw incredible shapes and colors, highlighted in varied light. The color of the sediment ranges from pink to purple to chocolate. The tour lasts about one and one half hour. Two sections of the canyon, the Upper and the Lower Antelope Canyon are possible to visit in separate tours. We completed the Upper Antelope Canyon tour. According to a subjective description the Upper Antelope Canyon is considered to be more beautiful. We booked the tour from Page, Arizona. The guide was pricey so this time we didn’t do the Lower Canyon tour.
Following our guided tour of the Antelope Canyon, we visited the Horseshoe Bend of the Colorado River in the Vermilion Cliff National Monument. By that time in the day, it was really hot, but the view was beautiful. I am happy to have seen this beauty.
Next, we visited to the Lake Powell Reservoir in the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. Lake Powell is beautiful with lots of bays. The contrast between the blue water and the white rocks and beaches is very beautiful. The trouble began there and when the weather changed suddenly. The National Weather Service issued flash flood warnings. As we watched the white walls of the canyon opposite the river, black clouds moved in and pelted the distant opposite slopes with rain. The raindrops bouncing forming what appeared as a shimmering layer over the distant slope and it was a magical sight. It was hard to tear ourselves away from the view, but the rains could have come our way and it was time to seek safe ground. As we retreated we saw how the sheets of rainwater gathered into rivulets and unified into silvery steams that crept toward and spilled over the rim, and the nascent waterfalls looked like sparkling stretching silver tongues in the quickly disappearing sun as the rain started on our side of the canyon. We realized that we were watching powerful flash floods; a little bit of this phenomenon was captured in a video.
We recalled seeing one flash flood area marked by the road that we took to this place and were eager to retreat past that point on the way back to our Airbnb cabin in Oljato-Monument Valley, a nearly 2-hour drive. We saw signs of recent rain, but the marked flash flood area presented no danger. Much closer to our destination however, where the road runs between sandstone ‘monuments’, we got rain. We saw the gathering of sheets of water on the gentle slopes to red, muddy streams carrying some debris. Soon we encountered flooding. The streams crossing the only road in the desert with no amenities around were between us and our cabin on high ground. The first stream was possible to cross immediately; the second was even smaller, but the third one was about 150 feet (~ 40 m) long. The formidable force of the rushing red water was on display as it produced a large standing wave near the road where it hit an obstacle. The good thing was that police had blocked the road until the flow diminished enough for a safe crossing. We saw larger vehicles cross and other cars the size of ours cross after some hesitation. Flash floods ebb after a while and we followed a car from a ‘safe’ distance as it traced the slight curve of the road hidden under the floodwaters. We got to our cabin safely, a cabin on high sandy ground, way off the paved road very near the foot of a monument rock, and we watched a colorful sunset over Monument Valley. What a day!