Named by the Navajo Indians as the Antelope Canyon region, the name came from the significant demand for antelope that passed through the area every year. This location, in the southeastern US state of Arizona, five hours from Las Vegas, is home to the sacred Slot Canyon. The locals consider this cave to be a place of protection and a very strong spiritual blessing, but what is certain, and the consensus of all who visit, is that this is a work of art made entirely by nature, without any interference from human beings.
Physically speaking, the place of beauty, made up of sandstone rocks, surprises with the uncompromising perfection of its large corridors in warm colors and light spills that form a unique and privileged setting of nature, called, by the locals, an underground cathedral.
Its formation has no certain record, but it is believed that Antelope Canyon was formed by numerous erosions, mainly due to floods. Rainwater, especially during the monsoon season (a term formerly used in British India to refer to the great seasonal winds that blow from the Gulf of Bengal and the Arabian Sea, bringing heavy rain to the area in question), formed basins of constant velocity, and along with this phenomenon, narrow passages opened up at the site. Over time, the corridors became deeper and more rigid, arriving at the shape they are today.
But you should know that floods didn’t just happen in the past; on the contrary, they still occur and are a cause for total alarm in the region. Even if the chances are remote, the local administrators and guides always have the most accurate weather forecasts possible. When potential rain storms are forecast, the canyons are closed and entry is forbidden without the possibility of negotiation. The months most likely to rain are usually August and September.
One of the last major floods occurred on October 30, 2006, lasting 36 hours. The shock was so great that the park and tribal authorities closed Antelope Canyon for five months.
Two proposals in the same territory
Upper Antelope Canyon
Called “Tsé bighánílíní” in the tribal language, or “the place where the water flows through the rocks”, this top point is the most visited by tourists. The main reason for this majority of interest in the place is its entrance and total length, which are totally at ground level, so there are no radical climbs or descents, good for those who can’t (or don’t want to) get too tired.
Another big reason, and perhaps the determining factor for my choice, is that I have a better chance of being able to see the breaks in the place with beams of light. The leakage of rays from the sun hitting the openings of the cave is a sight to behold.
The tip for those who want to increase their chances of seeing this marvelous scene is to try to schedule a visit in the summer months, as the rays are less intense in winter.
Lower Antelope Canyon
Also named by the Navajo Indians, this lower part is called Hazdistazí, or “spiral stone arches”. Located just a few kilometers away, this attraction is just as beautiful as the first. The difference lies primarily in the physical effort, which here requires a little more wear and tear on the part of the traveler.
To enter the monument, you have to climb some ladders installed at strategic points in the area to get a privileged view of the Canyon. In addition, a more difficult and longer hike is necessary to get to know the place as a whole. Located just a few kilometers away, this attraction is just as beautiful as the first. The difference lies primarily in the physical effort, which here requires a little more wear and tear on the part of the traveler. Narrow at some points, the climbs require several flights of stairs. But despite this “extra” exercise in the schedule, this is a wonderful opportunity to get to know a true sanctuary in the middle of Arizona.
NOTE: It’s worth mentioning that for photographers thinking of bringing tripods to help them click, an extra fee is charged in addition to the entrance fee. The price is not fixed, so you need to check the exact price at the time of booking.
Another popular attraction in the park is the “highest natural bridge in the world”, the Rainbow Bridge. Some 85 meters high, 13 meters thick and 10 meters wide, this is one of the most sacred and worshipped points for the local tribe.
Known as a true point of inspiration for people not only from the tribes, but also tourists from all over the world, the 85,000 people who visit the sanctuary each year understand, through the energy that the bridge transmits, why there is so much respect for this religious space.
Did you know?
Nowadays, exploring the area is completely safe due to the strict weather regulations and forecasts that are followed on a daily basis, but in the not-so-distant past the same could not be said of the place. Due to “more open” tourism and the fact that it is NOT compulsory to have an authorized guide to accompany you through the caves, a tragedy occurred in August 1997 when eleven people drowned in a flood in the “Lower” cave.
A storm 5 kilometers away flooded the canyon, causing this terrible accident. After that, Lower Antelope Canyon was closed for nine months before reopening with improved safety features and now no more “accident” data.
– Don’t forget to bring a canteen with fresh water to keep you hydrated on the tour.
– The average visit to the caves (depending on how many points you want to see) takes around 3 hours.
– The journey is made in groups of around 30 to 40 people, so the stops inside the caves are quick so as not to delay the group.
– Choose comfortable clothes so you don’t run the risk of getting into annoying situations on the way.
– Animals are not allowed according to the rules laid down by the Indians.
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Text: Alice Camargo
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