Colorado River Trip & Lower Antelope Canyon

A fever for adventure…

There is a little secret the Colorado River gently whispers and echos along a 16 mile segment to those who love to paddle their own crafts.  A section of the river that does not take years to secure, expert skills to navigate or a guide to take you.  It is a 16 mile self guided float down a 9 degree slant of heaven.

It also just so happens to navigate intimately through the part of the Colorado River and the famous grand overlook called Horseshoe Bend.  There is a sandy beach slumber spot across the river below the famed photography spot that hosts those who know these babbling echoed secrets.





Horseshoe Bend Photo: David Khoo

We were given this gift, this secret by a familiar mate of a previous crew.  A photographer you remember vividly from the shots he took of our Salome Jug Canyoneering trip, Quan Nguyen.  The moment we finished our last adventure together our group started planning for the next.  It was decided we would float this canyon over a 2 day trip.

There are enormous amounts of adventurous side trips to consider while in this area.  Trying to narrow it down was impossible.  This news is only good- it leaves many future adventures for this gallery of geological artwork.

We departed Phoenix midday on a boiling hot July Friday.  Our plan was to spend Friday night at a campsite in Glen Canyon so we could take the first guided tour at 9am on Saturday morning into Lower Antelope Canyon.  Our put in time at Lee’s Ferry was for 2pm on Saturday.

We began our 4 hour commute knowing when we were to arrive the heat forecast was not much different than the blistering valley of Phoenix.  I was feeling hotter than ever, something had been toying with my immune system for the last week.  I kept trying to talk myself out of it.

To add more zest to the circumstances I had massively pulled a muscle in my upper back and when we rented our kayak they only had one kayak paddle… the only thing they had left for me was a canoe paddle.  This was all adding up.  I wasn’t trying to find out what the solution was, I was just rolling with it.



Lee's Ferry

If you have never been to this area of earth it is unlike anything you will find on the planet.  The geological majesty has been attracting human presence since 7,000-9,000 BC.  We arrived first at Lee’s Ferry as the sun began to soften over the historic spot that marks the first rapids of the Grand Canyon.  It was 103 degrees with no shade to speak of.  We gladly took our time enjoying the view from the truck on our leisurely commute to our campsite in Glen Canyon.






Once the sun began to give us reprieve we set up our camp at the Glen Canyon recreation area.  It was a short 20 minute drive to our scheduled morning adventure from here.  We also learned that two of our adventuring friends Dave and Sharlyn happened to be staying in the area on their way back from Moab.  They came by our campsite and we toasted to the view of the supermoon we were gifted with.  They gifted us with the leftover spirits they had from their week long trip that was coming to an end the following day.  It was an unexpected reunion and mystic celebration.

The ice cold hard cider I was enjoying was helping me in my efforts to convince myself that even though the sun had fully set I wasn’t still on fire.  Shar and Dave shared stories of Moab and long and hot bus rides following long hot days on the river with a campsite that didn’t provide any reprieve from the heat.  The cider was helping fan the flames as I continued in my practice of denial.





Our camp heated up quickly as the early rising sun pushed us out of our site after our kinked neck, toss, turn and toasty themed slumber party.  We had a morning date with a wind and water carved canyon in the earth called Lower Antelope.  They do guided tours every half hour into the sandstone masterpiece that mother nature created during her advanced classes in sculpting.







Photo: Chad Zaneis

Dropping down into the Navajo named Hasdeztwazi (spiral rock arches) gives you a neck cramp of a different kind.  Trying to capture and take in this 50 foot tall and only a few feet wide snaking sandstone slit in the earth helped once again with the denial that had now turned into a hoarse cough and runny nose.







There must be infinite ways to photograph this canyon depending on the time of day and year you visit. The light dances along the sandy walls differently for each visitor.  We got private concert with our Navajo guide playing his flute as those sounds winded down the canyon walls and gently speaking calm to your heart.







We were told the stories of the lives that had been lost to the canyon during flash floods.  The sandy floor of the canyon tells it’s own story of erosion from these floods.







It was comforting knowing the sun was still peeking in on us but it also summoned us out of the cool canyon.  Eventually we needed to come out of this slit in the earth.  We had a hot date with the waters that were responsible for this.

We started our 2 hour commute back to Lee’s Ferry.  I was still in denial.  An hour later I woke up in the passenger seat of our truck in a pose a contortionist would be envious of.  I was using the kayak paddle as a pillow.  I knew then I was done for.






Photo: Ted Bland

We made it to Lee’s Ferry in plenty of time to load our boats up and efficiently lose a gallon of water each in sweat as we were backhauled to our put in spot just below Glen Canyon Dam.  I was running a full blown fever as my head began to eliminate all of the trimmings that come along with the flu.  My denial had expired.  I embraced the circumstances and firmly decided the adventure must go on.






Photo: Quan Nguyen 

The backhaul company dropped us at a beach just below the Glen Canyon Dam.  The water is a cool 50 degrees and flows just enough to allow for the viewing of the artwork displayed on the gallery walls of this gorge.  We had 9 miles of floating to enjoy until our campsite at the bottom of Horseshoe Bend.







Photo: Quan Nguyen

The water was clear, cool and crisp.  Our kayak was like a comfy like a floating couch.  With my sore back hollering with every fumbling of the canoe paddle I sincerely thought… what a perfect place to get the flu.







Photo: Quan Nguyen

David and Ted kneeled into their paddling rhythm demonstrating exactly why a canoe paddle is great for a canoe.. and not a kayak.







There are several spots of  prehistoric interest along the river.  2 stops had trails leading to Petroglyphs.  They are very difficult to access unless you get to them by the way of the secret echos down the Colorado River.








We landed at the beach below Horseshoe Bend.  Directly above Ted wading in the pristine water is the spot where the photo was taken at the beginning of this post.  We were going to slumber here.  I was sure I was hallucinating from my fever.

I laid in my tent while losing myself glancing at the canyon walls.  I was seeing things in these canyon walls.  I found my kindred spirit letting my imagination run wild, the fever was amplifying this.






campfirePhoto: David Khoo

The sun set as I said my early good nights while the guys chronicled the valuable images we would take out of the canyon with us.







Photo: Quan Nguyen

Tomorrow would be a new day and I needed to get some rest to take in the paragon of beauty that awaited.  I suffered today but it was suffering in paradise.  Seems to be a fitting theme for me- one that I will gladly accept any day.  With that thought in my head I rested my pounding head knowing that I was truly happy.  There was no other way to define it.







Photo: David Khoo

10 hours later I woke with this view.  I splashed the 50 degree water in my face as it briskly cleansed and alleviated my swollen face.  My fever gone, the sun rising on the canyon walls, the feeling of warmth in my chest knowing I was able to still enjoy this journey, or maybe that was phlegm.  Either way we had a glorious 8 miles of beauty to enjoy and I wasn’t hallucinating any of it.







Photo: Quan Nguyen

We remembered the boat captain that took us up river saying the gradual decline of 9% would allow you to fall asleep an still be able to float down this section of the Colorado.  It was surreal- we were floating down the Colorado River and at times we were the only people on it for miles.  The water so clear you could see every fish that swam by, so quiet at times you wondered if your breath could be heard echoing down the canyon.







Photo: Quan Nguyen

Just before the final mile back to Lee’s Ferry we quietly came upon a wild horse grazing along the river.  It was a peaceful encounter with one of the inhabitants of this rock art gallery we took a tour through.  I waved my canoe paddle from my kayak and said goodbye to the always nurturing Mother that took care of me during my bout with the flu and said my thanks for her care.


Here are some helpful links if you are considering a trip to this area:

Colorado River Discovery

Glen Canyon and Lee’s Ferry

Lower Antelope Canyon



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