Slotting at Antelope Canyon, AZ

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March 9th 2011
Published: March 9th 2011
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I said slot canyon, not slot machines! A slot canyon is formed by the wear of water rushing through rock. A slot canyon is significantly deeper than it is wide. Some slot canyons measure less than 3 meters across at the top, but drop more than 30 meters (100 feet) to the canyon floor. Most slot canyons are formed by sandstone and limestone rock, although granite and basalt canyons are also found. But only a small number of creeks will form slot canyons due to the combination of the characteristics of the rock and the regional rainfall.

The largest known slot canyons are in Australia, in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. The majority are in the Wollemi Wilderness and are difficult to access. In the United States, the largest concentration of slot canyons are in Utah and northern Arizona. Two of the most famous in Arizona are Antelope Canyon and Secret Canyon, near Page, AZ in the Navajo nation. But even distant storms can cause flash flooding, with miles between safe exits.

So, my sojourn to Arizona will lead me to this magical area. From the first time I saw black and white photos as a kid, I wondered about these miracles of nature. Now, the opportunity has presented itself, in the middle of the winter, one of the best times to visit the slots. Spring run off would present a huge hazard to my safety, should a gully washer decend upon me.

Antelope Canyon, outside of Page, is also known as Corkscrew Canyon. And the opportunity for photographs is equally appealing. From downtown Page, a four wheel drive vehicle transports us to the slots. A Navajo guide is provided to explain the geology of the slots and the cultural history of the area. Antelope Canyon is only a quarter of a mile in length.

They recommend a tripod for photos, but I really cannot be bothered. They suggest long exposures, but Ansel Adams I am not. I will point and shoot and see what happens. The photographic tour leaves at 11:30am each day and is limited to 12 participants. At noon, the light shines almost directly down into the canyon. In the second hour, the colors are more vibrant, with reds, blues, and purples. Total time in the canyon is two hours. The depth will be 130 feet. It was truly spectacular!!!!

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