We left delightfully cool Jacob Lake at an elevation of almost 8,000 feet and drove to Page, Arizona which at an elevation of 4,300 feet was definitely warmer. This is a touristy town due to its proximity to such attractions as the Grand Canyon, Antelope Canyon and Glen Canyon Dam.
Our main reason for camping here was to see Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon and one of the most photographed places in the world. We had seen pictures and were really excited about visiting the canyon. We booked our tour over a month in advance. Antelope Canyon is located on Navajo land, the largest and most populous Indian reservation in the country. In order to see Antelope Canyon you must have a Navajo guide with you.
The night before our tour we had thunderstorms and very heavy rain throughout the evening and night. We knew because of the danger of flash floods in the canyon our tour would be canceled if the rain did not stop. Sadly before going to bed we heard on the news about flash flooding that killed several hikers in Zion National Park and the small town of Hildale on the Utah/Arizona border. We had recently been in Zion and had passed through Hildale on our way to Jacob Lake a week earlier. Though we felt our campground location was safe, it was still somewhat unnerving to hear the pounding rain well into the night.
The day of our tour we awoke to sunny blue skies, a perfect day for a canyon tour. We drove to where we would be transported into the canyon. Before getting in the back of the pickup truck we were treated to a traditional Navajo rope dance. We then climbed on the back of a truck which had seating for fourteen. The couple sitting next to us was from Winchester Virginia and their granddaughter is attending JMU, my alma mater. It is rare to meet someone from Virginia so it was a delight for me! We have noticed that especially in the fall when U.S. children are back in school, the number of foreign tourists seem to rise to the point that we often hear more foreign language being spoken than English in campgrounds, parks and trails. On our Antelope Canyon tour we also had tourists from Canada, France and Italy.
In the back of the truck were two long benches, back to back. Two thirds of the road was unpaved, and the heavy rain the night before cut down on the dust but left some washes in the road, making for quite a bumpy ride. We had read beforehand that there could be sand falling inside the canyon so we picked up a couple of bandanas at the store the day before to protect our nose and mouth if needed.
Antelope Canyon, even though we had seen pictures, far exceeded our expectations in its beauty. The entrance was rather unimpressive but once inside all we could say over and over was “WOW!” We had an excellent Navajo guide who showed us the best places and angles to take pictures. There are a lot of people who visit the canyon each day and she kept us all moving and in our group since it was hard not to linger and marvel at the beauty before us. In some places the canyon was very narrow, less than three feet wide. It was formed by the erosion of Navajo sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding. Rainwater, especially during monsoon season, runs into the basin above the slot canyon and then picks up speed as it rushes into the narrow passageways. Over time the passageways eroded away making the corridors deeper and smoothing hard edges into beautifuil shapes in the rock. Our guide pointed out ways the floor of the canyon had changed just since yesterday from the heavy rains the previous night. The canyon is only about an eighth of a mile long but we stopped to take so many pictures it seemed longer. We came out the other side and regrouped and then walked back through the canyon again, this time much faster since we had hopefully gotten most of our pictures on the way through the first time. By now it was near high noon and the sun was beginning to shine down into the canyon. Our guide threw sand up in the air so we could capture some sunbeams.