In northern Arizona, close to Lake Powell, a myriad of slot canyons swerve through desert rock. Formed by the wear of rushing water, these deep corridors have been sculpted in sandstone, with smooth flowing patterns etched into the rock. Many of the canyons are located on what it is now Navajo Nation’s land, and some are named after local wildlife; Antelope, Owl, and Rattlesnake.
It’s a busy time of year, and crowds shuffle through the narrow tunnels, pausing only to take photos of the shafts of light filtering in from above. With a sea of people both ahead and behind, my gaze turns to the surrounding walls, which are illuminated in a warm, golden hue, carved like swirls of butterscotch. Like fine gravel to the touch, sand particles fall away with a gentle pat over its surface.
Seemingly fragile, these canyons have been softened and shaped by flash floods during monsoon season, where the water gains speed and carries sand as it dashes through the partitions. The fabric of these walls is a reminder that despite the arid desert climate and overwhelming heat, water is ever present, its energy constantly shaping the landscape.
- Words & Photos: Rich Stapleton