Hidden in a crack of the earth, deep in Navajo country, lies a slot canyon like no other. Millennia of floods and windblown sands have scoured a passageway 1/4 mile long, and up to 135 feet deep, that is in places barely wide enough for two people to pass. Light penetrates its depths at midday but leaves the sinuous chasm in shadows at all other times.
As far as the eye can see, sand defines this landscape. Antelope Canyon itself is made of lithified sand, sand with all the air pockets pressed out, sand cemented with calcium carbonate and pigmented with iron oxide, sand become rock after all these years. Its floor is deposited both by gentle floods that carry tons of sand into the slot, and by windstorms blowing it in from above.
Flash floods are common in canyon country, and are singularly responsible for shaping Antelope Canyon. Countless gallons of rushing sandy water enter the slot after a downpour anywhere in its watershed, impacting the walls at high velocity and dislodging new grains one by one. Every flash flood changes the canyon’s depth, taking out many feet of sand. In a never-ending cycle, new fill is restored with the next storm.
Humans are inexorably drawn to slot canyons. Their space is unlike any other I know, evoking awe, dismantling hubris; one cannot enter without feeling small and vulnerable. I find them irresistible — except when there is recent or imminent rain. Antelope Canyon’s interior curves shout the power of erosion; its muted palette of desert colors whispers visual tranquility. Go visit this site.