Red and orange-striped walls undulate from wide to narrow spaces. Natural beams of light pierce the ground from crevasses above. Layers, patterns, and shadows shift as the sun moves across the sky. How did these magnificent 8 to 60-million-year-old slot canyons form?
In this video, a tour guide demonstrates how centuries of wind and water erosion, from storms and flash floods, create slot canyons. All he needs is a small sand dune and a water bottle.
When you can’t see what he’s doing with the sand, it’s a chance to look at the sandstone formations behind him.
There are a few of these tourist-filmed demonstrations on YouTube, Instagram, and TikTok for good reason: They’re simple yet effective in conveying how these world-famous spaces were formed over thousands upon thousands of years. From the Navajo Tourism Department:
“Carved from the red sandstone for millennia by seasonal flood rains and wind, the canyons are narrow passageways that lead several hundred feet away from the mouth. The gorgeous sloping angles of the rocks – coupled with the shifts of light that make their way down from the rim of the canyon – combine for a scene that cannot be fully explained with words.”
“Only 8 to 12 feet wide along the sandy floor, the slot canyons have been featured in Hollywood films and magazine publications around the world. But none of those images can match the one you’ll experience when you step into the canyons and see this wonder for yourself.
To the Navajo, we call the Upper Antelope Canyon – Tsé’bighanilí – which means ‘The place where water runs through.’ For Lower Antelope Canyon, we call this place Hasdestwazi – which means ‘Spiral Rock Arches.’”
This next video provides another demonstration with views of the canyon exteriors: