Lower Antelope Canyon

Lower Antelope Canyon is Hasdestwazi, or “spiral rock arches”, in Navajo languaje.

The Lower canyon is longer and deeper than the Upper section, but also more challenging and requires ropes or ladders in some places to descend several sheer drops. It was here that 11 people were drowned in a flash flood in August 1997; water 50 feet deep from a thunderstorm 5 miles away swept through the canyon, eventually deepening it by 4 feet. Lower Antelope was closed for 9 months but people are now allowed in again although a guide must accompany all visitors.

Lower Antelope is a deep convoluted passage with steep drop offs and shear overhangs. It’s more like a long thin cave than a canyon. The Navajo have put 30-40 ft. stepladders in to help tourists get deep into the rift. In places the walls are only 36″ apart. It’s a difficult place to get into and an even more difficult place to get out of if you’re in a hurry. The rocks that make up the canyon are the petrified remains of prehistoric sand dunes laid down when a shallow ocean filled this portion of North America. Cross bedding is noticeable in the soft sandy walls. Many large over hangs with spiraling grooves carved into the sandstone loom overhead.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky the light bouncing into the canyon began it’s magic. The chocolate and peach colored walls rise up about 110 feet. Formed by hundreds of thousands of years of flash floods the walls sweep up and over it’s awed visitors. The view straight up is also spectacular. Deep violets and reds give way to pink, orange, and finally yellow near the top of the opening. Bird’s nests and chunks of debris can be seen high above. Down at the canyon bottom the walls are beginning to glow an unearthly orange. The sun bounces off the walls above and with each bounce gets more and more intense. It is at this time the canyon is at its most magical moment. Reactions to this spectacle are mixed. For some the experience borders on the religious. Others report a felling of dread, like they are in a place humans are not supposed to see. A chamber of the gods. It is indeed a unique experience and one not soon forgotten.

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