Antelope Canyon (Page, AZ)

No trip to the Southwest would be complete without a visit to perhaps the most beautiful (and over-hyped) slot canyon in the world: Antelope Canyon. The breathtaking photographs are everywhere, in travel magazines, on the internet, and virtually anywhere you come across the subject of Southwest travel: narrow sandstone slots flanked by radiant walls of orange, gold and pink, and illuminated from above by brilliant shafts of sunlight.

This attraction is located just outside Page, Arizona. Because it’s located on Navajo land, you must purchase a tour from one of many Navajo-owned companies, all located along Lake Powell Boulevard in Page. The one we picked had a tour tailored specifically for photographers. Some internet bulletin board users have complained that the photography-centered tour is too structured: tourists shuttled from one place to the next, told where to take your shots, and never given much time to wander on one’s own. Still, you are taken to the prime spots. Guides know from experience what photographers want. I heard no complaints from anyone on our tour. In essence, you have to decide what you want with limited time (and money). Still, I am disappointed that you can’t experience the canyon without running into hordes of people.

A photographers' tour is geared to camera hounds

A photographers’ tour is geared to camera hounds

One of the benefits provided by Chief Tsosie (and possibly other guides who lead similar tours) is that he takes you to the photogenic spots and clears the areas of people so that your shots are not “spoiled” by human subjects, a practice that likely irks people on other tours. Another bonus for taking a photographers’ tour is that you can take along a tripod, which is prohibited on other tour types.

We arrived at the canyon around noon, after riding for about a half hour in an open-air Jeep over a rough, dry wash. Immediately upon entering, we were overwhelmed by the brilliant orange and pink colors for which Antelope is famous. With the sun directly overhead, the glow and reflections were otherworldly. It’s as if the entire walls were bathed in orange light. There were several places where a single shaft of sunlight beamed through a hole overhead, like a powerful floodlight was shining from above (top photo).

Although I brought along a tripod on this vacation, unfortunately I had the mounting bracket from another unit, rendering my tripod useless. I have to live with several blurry shots that fortunately are augmented by much better ones.

You can appreciate that Antelope Canyon is one of nature’s grand displays, one that will likely never be experienced anywhere else.

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Glen Canyon Dam (Page, AZ)

Fraught with controversy from the beginning, the construction of the Glen Canyon Dam was undertaken to provide a cheap source of hydroelectric power and to regulate the flow of water to downstream areas of the Southwest that needed a more consistent supply during drought years. Even to this day, there are environmental impact studies to gauge the effect of the dam on riparian environments downstream and the accumulation of vast amounts of sediment behind the dam that may be rendered eventually inoperable if dredging is not undertaken in the near future.

We took the Glen Canyon Dam tour where we found out more about the dam’s engineering and economic benefits and the role it played in the creation of Page as a workers’ town. We learned, for example, that the creation of Lake Powell, the vast reservoir created by the dam, has transformed the economy of the area and introduced recreational opportunities, mainly house boating and water skiing, where none existed before, good or bad. It took an astounding 18 years to fill the reservoir after the dam was completed.

Glen Canyon Bridge

Glen Canyon Bridge