Ranger Kathryn's Arches

April 2, 2012

Upper Antelope Canyon: don’t expect tranquility

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kathryn Colestock-Burke @ 9:24 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

The only time there was a gap between groups was twice when a light beam intervened.
Our guide drew a line in the sand and we didn't cross it until all photos were made.

Oh, my aching soul!

In my previous post, I shared my favorite photos of the slot canyon near Page, Arizona. In the interest of journalistic honesty, I would adjure you when you visit to forego any expectation of tranquility, and be prepared for lots and lots of people vying for the same shots you are.

Camera aimed toward the sky...

There was constant noise in the canyon, tour guides trying to keep their groups moving, giving instructions about where to snap the best pictures, or relating bits of information about flash floods. I was never jostled or pushed, but definitely felt herded along. Multiple groups from several tour companies occupy the same space; eight trucks (14 tourists each) shuttled customers for our 1130 tour.

And here is my dilemma: while this bustle and noise would not annoy 82% of the human race, it sucks the life out of me. I’m wired to need more quiet, less stimulation. I love to hike where I’m the only one on the trail, camp where nobody’s near me, live in a place away from noise and lights. Leaving Antelope Canyon, I felt drained instead of replenished.

What was missing was any sense of being in a location the Navajos consider sacred. I was looking for a modicum of reverence; I found myself desperately wishing for someone, anyone, to acknowledge this aspect. Perhaps commercial activity does not desecrate the canyon. Or perhaps offerings are made, or cleansing ceremonies performed, after hours.

Was it worth it? You bet. I crossed off another Bucket List item and experienced a very magical place. Sometimes you can’t do things on your own terms. When (not if) you go to Antelope Canyon, go with no expectations; you’ll enjoy it immensely and avoid disappointment. The stunning, incomparable, unique beauty deserves your visit.

(Note: if you’re wired at all like me, you might enjoy reading about the trait of Sensory Processing Sensitivity.)

The visual texture sends chills along my spine.


  1. Surreal.

    Comment by Mom — April 2, 2012 @ 9:46 pm | Reply

    • One of the more surreal locations I’ve visited. It does not feel like normal world space.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 2, 2012 @ 11:35 pm | Reply

  2. I would say something similar about Arches. When my wife and I were there in October it was busy! We then went to Needles section of Canyonlands and it was the polar opposite.

    These are awesome photos, though, thanks for posting!

    Comment by Donald Bouchard — April 2, 2012 @ 10:12 pm | Reply

  3. Here’s a little trick I learned at Lower Antelope Canyon…

    For some unknown reason — which I wasn’t about to question — if you’re shooting with a tripod, they will let you move at your own pace without having to follow a group or keep pace with a guide. Don’t know if the same exemption applies at Upper Antelope. So, if the parking lot at Upper antelope Canyon is full, cross the road to Lower Antelope and take your tripod.

    Comment by Ron Carroll — April 2, 2012 @ 10:31 pm | Reply

    • We learned this AFTER we were already into Lower. Upper has a special photographic tour that costs twice as much if you want to be able to linger with your tripod. Not having tripods, we were at the mercy of the guide…. but that is for another story. Your facts are absolutely true that Lower Antelope tours WITH a tripod are “on your own” and you will be checked on from time to time but not hurried.

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 2, 2012 @ 11:16 pm | Reply

  4. I want deer & Antelope play! The skies better not be cloudy either.

    Comment by midsummerman — April 3, 2012 @ 12:00 am | Reply

  5. I liked the picture of the group in relationship to the depth and width of the canyon. Well check it off your Bucket List Ranger Kathryn. The French tourists staying with me are headed to Antelope Canyon day after tomorrow. It has been ‘discovered’.

    Comment by The Moabhiker — April 3, 2012 @ 8:17 am | Reply

  6. Your observations reinforce my hope that the NPS not operate as Disneyland. What else is on your Bucket List?

    Comment by Keith Silva — April 4, 2012 @ 11:39 am | Reply

    • I believe I would abandon ship if the NPS changed its mission statement to be entertainment-oriented instead of preservation- and education- oriented.

      Other Bucket List items include visiting every national park, which could keep me busy for a long time to come. I want to go to odd places like Easter Island, Oman, and the Maldives. I’d like to get certified in SCUBA and spend some time on a remote island studying birds. Tagging along with cetacean researchers sounds like a must-do. I guess I’ll have to live to be 120 or so!

      Comment by Kathryn Burke — April 4, 2012 @ 12:29 pm | Reply

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