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This post will be much shorter than my last few. Or, it may be longer – a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Slot canyons are incredibly beautiful natural sandstone carvings. As the name implies, these are “canyons,” and they’re typically found in desert regions where there’s lots of sandstone and an occasional thunderstorm. Over millions of years, the abrasive nature of flowing water, sand and rocks carves narrow canyons through the sandstone. A slot canyon is usually deeper than it is wide and some can be EXTREMELY narrow. Since these slot canyons are typically in desert environments they also are frequently dry and it is relatively easy to visit these vertical, inside-out sculpture gardens. Danger does exist in slot canyons. Since desert soils don’t absorb much rainwater, if there’s a rainstorm in the vicinity (or, even miles upstream in the water basin), the runoff can rip and roar through a slot canyon and pound everything in it to pemmican. When walking over sandstone, it would sometimes be possible to walk over a slot canyon and not really notice it other than you’re walking over a dark crack, although most slot canyons are at least a few feet wide at their tops.
One of the most famous slot canyons in the world is Petra, Jordan. It’s on my bucket list to visit someday. Closer to my home, there’s a slot canyon, or something close to it in the form of Pewits Nest near Baraboo, Wisconsin.
But, some of the most beautiful slot canyons are found in Arizona and Utah. I’ve been fortunate to visit several of these slot canyons and I’m always in awe and inspired by them. Each slot canyon has it’s own character, even though one slot canyon can be just a few hundred meters from another slot canyon.
One of the most accessible and visited slot canyons is Antelope Canyon just east of Page, Arizona. If you visit, there are two major choices (or, simply choose both): Upper Antelope Canyon and Lower Antelope Canyon. You can hire a Navajo guide to take you to and through the canyon of your choice, or you might be able to wander freely if you visit Lower Antelope Canyon. One of the good things about the Antelope Canyon system is that it’s very well protected and monitored for precipitation in the area. About twenty years ago, a group of tourists was exploring Lower Antelope Canyon and were caught in a flash flood, never to be seen again. Since that time, the Navajo Nation has instituted better security and limited site access to reduce the likelihood of these accidents. The first gallery below is from my most recent visit to Lower Antelope Canyon in June, 2012. Antelope Canyon is very beautiful and you won’t be disappointed with a visit there. My kids still talk about it! The colors and smooth carvings are entrancing, and it’s relatively easy to move about.
South of Escalante, Utah, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, there are several accessible slot canyons, but it takes a little doing to get to them. They’re many miles in the wilderness, on rough gravel roads, and then there’s a mile or two or three hike to get to these slot canyons. But, the hikes are worth it (particularly if you take the shorter routes…). We visited Spooky and Peek-a-boo Slot Canyons in one day, which are located in Upper Coyote Gulch. Spooky was VERY narrow – I barely could squeeze through in several sections and there were many visitors on the day we were there, creating traffic jams in the slot. I don’t have any good photographs from it because of how narrow and crowded it was. Nearby is a totally different looking slot canyon – Peek-a-boo. It is slightly wider and has a few arches overhead that give it quite a different feel.
A day later, we were back in the National Monument and visited Tunnel Slot Canyon and Zebra Slot Canyon; they are found to the side of Harris Wash. (If you want to find these slot canyons for yourself, just google them or check out the photographs on Google Earth; or, just write to me!). Parking for the hike to these two slots is just off of Hole in the Rock Road; however, if you’ve mismanaged your research, you also can drive to a different location in Harris Wash and then make a MUCH longer hike to them (not recommended, particularly if your family is along). Tunnel Slot is a relatively short slot canyon, narrow and dark. It’s so narrow at the top that not a whole lot of light gets down into it. Much of the light comes from the ends, which makes for some difficult photography.
About a mile northwest of Tunnel Slot is Zebra Slot. This is a narrow slot canyon and very different from Tunnel Slot – it’s open and well lit. The sidewalls show beautifully variegated sandstone layers with moqui marble inclusions. Similar to the Antelope Canyon system, it is just enthralling to be there and to think about the geology and how long it has taken to carve this fantastic place.
From here on, I’ll just let the photographs speak for themselves – enjoy.
I’m signing off…