Day 13, November 11, 2016
Start: Page, Arizona
Destination: Zion Mountain Ranch, Carmel Junction, Utah
Total miles for the day: 150 miles
Total miles from day 1 start: 3,450 miles
Unearthly in its beauty, Antelope Canyon is a popular slot canyon on the Navajo Reservation, a few miles east of Page, and open to tourists by tour only. Wind and water have carved sandstone into an astonishingly sensuous temple of nature where light and shadow play hide and seek. Less than a city block long (about a quarter mile), its symphony of shapes and textures are a photographer’s dream. – Lonely Planet
Thanks to all those amazing Instagram posts of Antelope Canyon’s spiraling sandstone, I was determined to see this thing for myself. We scheduled an early morning Antelope Canyon tour. My coworker told me to come early to avoid crowds and thank god he did. The canyon is very narrow and sound bounces off the sandstone – I can’t imagine appreciating it with a huge group of people. (There was a huge Korean tour bus that went in before us, but there was a decent gap between our two groups that it really wasn’t an issue for us.)
The first story our Navajo tour guide told us was of a Chinese tour group who came here in 1996 when there was a flash flood inside the Canyon. Apparently the rain and water had rushed down from up north and they had no idea it was inside the Canyon. All 10 tourists died. The 11th person was the guide who ended up being found alive the next day, covered under the sand. The Navajo believe he was saved because he spoke and prayed to the gods. So now only Navajo guided tours are allowed. (The dates and numbers in this story seem to vary online.)
When you reach the floor of the canyon, you feel like you’ve walked into a painting. It’s incredibly surreal. The swirls from the rush of water and the sunlight’s play on colors creates this natural phenomenon we call a slot canyon. Our guide walked us through and pointed out the different animals and objects shaped by sandstone that have been identified by people over time. She also showed us where some of the most famous photos were taken and how much people have paid for them. I just learned the most expense photo in the world was by Peter Lik: (left) “Phantom” sold for $6.5m. (right) “Eternal Beauty” another cool photo of his
Here are some of my own free photos:
After Antelope Canyon, we had to check out Horseshoe bend which was only a short distance away. It was almost noon by the time we made it out here and the sun against the rocks sort of washed out its rich, red colors.
Apparently, the green, clear water is caused by the Glen Canyon Dam trapping sediment (not good for the dam in the long run…read on).
Glen Canyon Dam
The Colorado River Basin is a huge source of water for the West coast. It covers about 246,000 square miles, including parts of the seven “basin States” of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming and also flows into Mexico. The river supplies water to more than 30 million people, irrigates nearly 4 million acres of cropland in the U.S. and Mexico, and supplies hydropower plants that generate more than 10 billion kilowatt-hours annually. –USGS The Glen Canyon Dam is a concrete dam on the Colorado River built in 1963 to control floods and provide carry-over water storage for times of drought. The construction of this dam in 1963 resulted in the man-made Lake Powell in the middle of the desert and the city of Page, AZ was formed.
This is actually a pretty controversial dam. From the beginning, they’ve basically known that Lake Powell would lose water to evaporation and leakage being located in the dessert. On top of that, the Colorado River is an especially muddy river and sediments are gradually building up at the foot of the dam, eventually predicted to block the outlets used to release water. All of this combined plus the current drought in the West is basically making this dam less useful. The hydropower available has already been reduced. After our trip, in December 2016, it appears the feds committed another 20 years of use. And the controversy continues…
Navajo Generating Station (Coal Plant)
There’s one thing people don’t really talk about and it’s the massive coal plant on the Navajo Reservation. It’s practically in your face as you make your way to Antelope Canyon. It’s really an eye soar. At the scenic overlook an hour out of Page (where the photo above was taken), you can see the pollution stretch on for miles. Apparently, the Navajo Generating Station is the United States of America’s third largest emitter of carbon dioxide. But this is a source of income for the reservation and obviously, a vital source of electricity (for Arizona, Nevada, and Southern California.) I don’t know what the solution here is, but these are facts people don’t talk about when they visit the area.