Imagine a large sandstone rock measuring 120 feet in height and several hundred feet in length situated at the bottom of a wide dry desert wash. At some point in history, this rock was split in two with a deep vertical crack running from end to end. Over the centuries the passageways through this rock eroded away from flash flooding during the monsoon seasons making the rock’s interior corridors deeper and rounding out its sharp edges in such a way as to create smooth wavy shapes. Around Arizona it is called a “slot canyon” and the one in Antelope Valley on the Navajo Nation near Page, Arizona, is one of the most photographed canyons in the world.
The Navajo name for Antelope Canyon is “Tse’ bighanilini” which means “the place where water runs through rocks.” The local Navajo people do not know how the rock split in two. Some elders say that it was caused by an earthquake. Others say it was a blessing from the Creator, for entering the canyon is like entering a cathedral. According to the Navajo Nation brochure, “traditionally the Navajos would pause before entering the canyon to be in the right frame of mind and prepare for protection and respect. This would allow them to leave with an uplifted feeling of what Mother Nature had to offer and to be in harmony with something greater than themselves. It was, and still is, a spiritual experience.”