Exploring and Photographing the Dramatic Vistas of Northern Arizona

Water Holes Slot Canyon
By Laurent Martrhs
  |  Gorp.com
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The spectacular Water Holes slot canyon is very accessible and is worth a visit. Even though this canyon doesn't have the form and color of Antelope Canyon, it nevertheless has some nice formations and, as its name indicates, the water holes make it attractive.

If you are traveling during the tourist season, the visit will be more organized. Out of season, the gate is not manned and you'll have to pay a visit to the Navajo Parks and Recreation office to find a guide or, failing that, to get a back country permit.

You'll find an entrance cut into the barbed wire to the right of the gate. Don't follow the cairns towards the right (this will lead to a spot where you can view the canyon above the bridge) instead, head towards the electric pylons. In less than 700 feet, you'll come to a depression on the right that will allow you to descend very easily into the dry bed of the canyon.

Walk straight down the canyon in the direction of the bridge. After 500 feet, you'll find a superb steep wall about 150 feet tall with a narrow passage. The canyon is not very interesting beyond the bridge, so retrace your steps and walk upstream. At this stage, the canyon is still fairly large, but quite beautiful. About half a mile further along you'll enter into lovely narrows where you'll catch sight of the first water pockets. Out-of-season, they're either dry or extremely muddy and make progress difficult. The narrows eventually turn into a slot canyon with beautiful walls and lighting effects. I especially recommend this visit if you don't have a chance to visit Little Wild Horse Canyon.

Getting there: Water Holes Canyon is located six miles south of Page on Route 89. A sign a few hundred feet before the entrance first announces its presence, and a second one is posted just before the bridge spanning the Water Holes Canyon gorge. You can park on either side of the road.

Photo advice: This canyon is better lit than Antelope. However, a tripod is still needed to take shots of the rock texture. It's also an incomparable spot to get great photos of the family in the nooks and crannies of the canyon, or in one of the water pockets with water up to their thighs. An ISO 400 or 800 print film will allow you to take photos with a hand-held camera. I have heard that you can get excellent views of the canyon from above just by following its edge, but I haven't been able to verify this.

Time required: 45 minutes round trip from Page, including the walk to the base of the canyon; one hour minimum in the canyon itself.


Published: 29 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 20 May 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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