USA: ARIZONA

Visit Arizona, USA, for exceptional sights in Grand Canyon National Park, Havasu Canyon within Havasupai Indian Reservation, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell, Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park, Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, Chiricahua National Monument, Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, Superstition Wilderness near Phoenix. Related articles: Southwest USA (UtahColoradoNew MexicoNevada, Arizona) and Texas.

Arizona favorite images


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon began forming at least 5 to 17 million years ago and now exposes a geologic wonder, a column of well-defined rock layers dating back nearly two billion years at the base. While the Colorado Plateau was uplifted by tectonic forces, the Colorado River and tributaries carved Grand Canyon over a mile deep (6000 feet / 1800 meters), 277 miles (446 km) long and up to 18 miles (29 km) wide. In 1979, UNESCO honored Grand Canyon National Park as a World Heritage Site.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Photos from Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, by Tom Dempsey, include: South Rim, Yavapai Point, Maricopa Point, Powell Point, Hopi Point, Mojave Point, Pima Point, Grandview Point, Colorado River seen from Moran Point and Lipan Point, Bright Angel Trail, rider on horse train. A flying hummingbird feeds on Indian Paintbrush flower.

Havasu Canyon, Havasupai Indian Reservation

On the Havasupai Indian Reservation, Havasu Creek flows over Havasu Falls and Mooney Falls through Havasu Canyon, part of the Grand Canyon, in Arizona. The beautiful color in the pools of Havasu Creek is caused by carbonate minerals settling to the bottom, turning it white, and acting as a reflector of the surrounding green and brown mossy cliffs plus the blue sky. This unique color combination creates a striking turquoise pool, and one of the most beautiful waterfalls in the world.

Havasupai (or Havasu ‘Baaja) means “people of the blue-green water,” and their people have tended fields in the Grand Canyon for at least 700 years. The Havasupai also lived at what is now called Indian Garden on the Bright Angel Trail in the main Grand Canyon, but they were evicted by the National Park Service in the 1920’s. Their brush shelters (wickiups) and gardens were destroyed at Indian Garden, leaving the Havasupai Tribe just 518 acres in Havasu Canyon. In the more enlightened year of 1975, fully 187,500 acres of canyon and rimland were returned to the tribe. As of 2005, about 450 of the tribe’s 650 members live in the village of Supai. As of this 1999 photo trip, Supai is the only town in the United States which still receives its mail by mule train.

Tom and Carol Dempsey in Havasu Canyon, April 1999: Having registered for camping permission from the Havasupai Tribe (external link) a few weeks in advance (as recommended), Carol and I parked our car in the dirt lot at Hualapai Hilltop and backpacked the 8-mile dusty trail downhill into Supai Village. About 25,000 tourists visit each year, so advance reservations are recommended. We checked in at the tribal office, then hiked 2 more miles to the campground, passing the wonderful Havasu Falls, one of the most surprising desert oasis experiences in the world. Impressive Mooney Falls was a short walk further downstream. To more fully experience the isolation of this desert oasis, walk to Supai instead of riding a horse or helicopter. But next time we’ll consider having the mule train carry our packs, to make the desert walk more comfortable. Thank you very much, Havasupai people, for sharing your very special canyon with visitors.

Helicopters carry in people and supplies, but the loud chop-chopping roar disturbed my appreciation of this beautiful natural setting. Out of nowhere, a porta-potty suddenly flew over our heads. Helicopters repeatedly flew full porta-potties, one at a time on a very long cable, out of the heavily-used campground, for disposal elsewhere. A composting toilet would seem to be a more cost effective solution. The densely-packed and worn campground in this narrow canyon would have benefited by further restricting the number of visitors per day.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park

Flash floods in Southwest USA deserts have carved slot canyons into Navajo Sandstone creating astoundingly beautiful natural rock cathedrals. Drive to Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park east of Page on Highway 98 between mileposts 298 and 299 in Arizona, USA. Turn south to Upper Antelope Canyon toll booth and parking lot, which has a 4WD shuttle and guide to reach the slot entrance. Or turn north on Antelope Point Road (Navaho Route N22B) to Lower Antelope Canyon (or “the Corkscrew”) parking lot.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Lake Powell and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area

Photos from Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and Lake Powell, in Utah and Arizona, include: Willow Creek Canyon, Broken Bow Arch, Llewellyn Gulch, petroglyphs of bighorn sheep chipped into desert varnish, pink cactus flower, frog held in hands, Bishop Canyon, LaGorce Arch. An Anasazi kiva (ceremonial room) was restored at Three Roof Ruin, on Escalante River Arm of Lake Powell.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park

Left and Right Mittens, Merrick Butte, and a balanced rock punctuate the horizon in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, USA. The Western movie director John Ford set several popular films here. (© Tom Dempsey / Photoseek.com)

Left and Right Mittens, Merrick Butte, and a balanced rock punctuate the horizon in Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona, USA. The Western movie director John Ford set several popular films here.

(Click the image to maximize on full page in GALLERIES mode, which has Add to Cart button.)

 Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area, in Arizona & Utah

Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness Area overlaps both Arizona and Utah. Fossilized sand dunes have eroded into the Coyote Buttes striated formations such as “The Wave.” Over 190 million years, ancient sand dune layers calcified into rock and created “The Wave” in the northwest corner of Arizona near the Utah border. Iron oxides bled through this Jurassic-age Navajo sandstone to create the salmon color. Hematite and goethite added yellows, oranges, browns and purples. Over thousands of years, water cut through the ridge above and exposed a channel that was further scoured by windblown sand into the smooth curves that today look like ocean swells and waves. For the permit required to hike to “The Wave”, contact the US Bureau of Land Management (BLM), who limits access to protect this fragile geologic formation.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Sonoran Desert Museum, Tucson

The Sonoran Desert Museum in Tucson, Arizona, shows an impressive variety of live native wildlife and plants. A coati (member of the raccoon family, Procyonidae) climbs a tree. A handler presents a live Barn Owl. Pink cactus flowers bloom.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Superstition Wilderness, near Phoenix


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.
Hike to Weaver’s Needle, cactus, and jagged rock formations in Superstition Wilderness (“the Superstitions”), in Tonto National Forest, near Phoenix, Arizona, USA.

Chiricahua National Monument

The Heart of the Rocks Loop Trail (7 to 9 miles) makes an excellent day hike through fascinating arrays of hoodoos in the far southeast corner of Arizona, in Chiricahua National Monument. 27 million years ago, huge volcanic eruptions laid down 2000 feet of ash and pumice which fused into rhyolitic tuff. This rock has eroded into fascinating hoodoos, spires, and balanced rocks which lie above the surrounding desert grasslands at elevations between 5100 and 7800 feet. At Chiricahua, the Sonoran desert meets the Chihuahuan desert, and the Rocky Mountains meet Mexico’s Sierra Madre, making one of the most biologically diverse areas in the northern hemisphere. Colorful cliffs of rhyolite (solidified volcanic ash layers) rise 2000 feet above white sycamore trees in Cave Creek Canyon, in Coronado National Forest, near Portal, Arizona.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Southwest USA favorites from Arizona, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

See my separate articles by state for Southwest USA (Arizona, ColoradoNew MexicoNevada, Utah) and Texas.

Recommended Arizona guidebooks from Amazon.com:

Search for latest Arizona travel books at Amazon.com (look for updates every 1-3 years):

2011: 2004: 2012:
2012: 2010:

USA: ARIZONA: Havasu Canyon, Falls, Supai

Beautiful Havasu Canyon flows into the Colorado River, and is part of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. River rafters can hike a long rough trail up to visit Supai, but the normal access is via an 8-mile dusty horse trail from a car park at Hualapai Hilltop (or via helicopter).

Havasupai (or Havasu ‘Baaja) means “people of the blue-green water,” and their people have tended fields in the Grand Canyon for at least 700 years. The Havasupai also lived at what is now called Indian Garden on the Bright Angel Trail in the main Grand Canyon, but they were evicted by the National Park Service in the 1920’s. Their brush shelters (wickiups) and gardens were destroyed at Indian Garden, leaving the Havasupai Tribe just 518 acres in Havasu Canyon. In 1975, a more the enlightened time, 187,500 acres of canyon and rimland were returned to the tribe. As of 2005, about 450 of the tribe’s 650 members live in the village of Supai. As of 1999, Supai is the only town in the United States which still receives its mail by mule train.

See also my separate Southwest USA articles: ArizonaUtah, and Nevada.

Tom and Carol Dempsey in Havasu Canyon, April 1999

Having registered for camping permission from the Havasupai Tribe (external link) a few weeks in advance (as recommended), Carol and I parked our car in the dirt lot at Hualapai Hilltop and backpacked the 8-mile dusty trail downhill into Supai Village. About 25,000 tourists visit each year, so advance reservations are recommended. We checked in at the tribal office, then hiked 2 more miles to the campground, passing the wonderful Havasu Falls, one of the most surprising desert oasis experiences in the world. Impressive Mooney Falls was a short walk further downstream. Thank you very much, Havasupai people, for sharing your very special canyon with visitors.

To more fully experience the isolation of this desert oasis, I strongly recommend walking to Supai, instead of riding a horse or helicopter. But next time we’ll consider having the mule train carry our packs, to make the desert walk more comfortable. Helicopters also carry in people and supplies, but the loud chop-chopping roar disturbed my appreciation of this beautiful natural setting. Out of nowhere, a porta-potty suddenly flew over our heads. Helicopters repeatedly flew full porta-potties, one at a time on a very long cable, out of the heavily-used campground, for disposal elsewhere. A composting toilet would seem to be a more cost effective solution. The densely-packed and worn campground in this narrow canyon would have benefited by further restricting the number of visitors per day.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Recommended Arizona guidebooks from Amazon.com:

Search for latest Arizona travel books at Amazon.com (look for updates every 1-3 years):

2011: 2004: 2012:
2012: 2010:

USA: ARIZONA: Antelope Canyon Navajo Park

Photo Tips for Antelope Canyon Navajo Tribal Park, Arizona

Where:

  • Page, Arizona: Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons are very easy to visit, great for both children and adults. Expect crowds. Drive there with your private car (or pay more for a tour booked from Page). Different Navajo families operate Upper and Lower Canyons, which explains the separate admission fees:
  • The Upper Canyon is an easy flat walk in sand. To get there, drive east of Page, Arizona on Highway 98 for several miles, to just before milepost 299. You will see an entrance booth for Upper Antelope Canyon on the right (south). Pay at the booth, park your car, and wait for the next 4WD shuttle & guide to take you to the slot entrance. In 2005, Navaho lands entry fee was $6 (good for one day only), plus $15 for the guided tour & ride to Upper Canyon.
  • Lower Antelope Canyon: Across the highway, to the north of Upper Canyon’s entrance station, you will see a sign marking the short road to Lower Antelope Canyon parking lot (Antelope Point Road, Navaho Route N22B). Pay at the office and walk along the marked trail, which descends into Lower Antelope Canyon on easy ladders and slanted sandstone. The Lower Canyon has less dust, fewer tourists, the best formations, and requires no guide, which allows you much more freedom & time to photograph. Walking straight through without stopping would take only half an hour, but the amazing cathedrals in stone should slow you down, awestruck. In 2006, Navaho lands entry fee was $6 (paid only once if seeing both canyons on the same day), plus Lower Canyon tour fee was $13.
  • Click here for the Navaho Nation’s official web site for “Antelope Canyon Navaho Tribal Park”.

When to go:

  • Entrance station open March-October 8:00am – 5:00pm (Mountain Standard Time year around, never Daylight Savings), charging fees.
  • Entrance Station is closed for the winter season (November – February) but Lower and Upper Antelope Canyon are both OPEN.
  • The canyons are subject to weather closures, especially in hot July-August which is dangerous flash flood season. In May-July (closer to summer solstice), the sun shines most directly into the slot canyons, for exciting light shafts.
  • Midweek is better than weekends, to avoid crowds.
  • Wait for a sunny day with the sun high overhead, best midday, during normal Canyon opening hours 9-5:00. Light quality will be very dull on a cloudy day, not as good for photography.
    • I shot my images on April 12-13, 2006.
    • I recommend 10am to 3pm, in April or October.
  • I recommend all day in each canyon (two days total) for serious photography. If you are sightseeing without a camera, you only need an hour or two in each canyon.
  • Your guide, required in the Upper Canyon, may let you linger for photography (which may cost a little more for extra hours). Large groups come through continuously in Upper Canyon. You must take shots quickly. Try to determine your shot settings at each spot before placing the tripod in the narrow path.
  • You have more freedom to photograph in the Lower Canyon, where no guide is required.


Add any of the above images to your Cart for purchase using my Portfolio site.

Photographic techniques:

  • The best lighting is bounced indirect sunlight.
  • Avoid including directly sunlit rocks in the image. An exception to this is capturing a column of sunlight in the dusty air. To get the best shots of shafts of sunlight, shoot when the sun is highest in the sky around noon. Throw sand up into the light column and quickly shoot the falling sunlit dust & sand. If others are present, get their permission before tossing sand. Crowds may also stir up enough dust to brighten the rays of sunlight.
  • If you use film, expose for the brightest rock (but avoid including directly sunlit rocks in the image as described above).
  • Have fun! This is a fantastic place, despite the crowds of people. Smile and be friendly to everyone, and patiently let people pass by in the narrow slots.

Photo Equipment to Bring:

  • Bring a tripod, flashlight, jacket, snacks, & water. The crowds of people in the Upper Canyon will make use of a tripod more challenging than in the longer and lesser traveled Lower Canyon.
  • I recommend a digital camera over a film camera since you can immediately determine the exposure and appearance of images. Check your LCD frequently to confirm image quality. Fill your bell-shaped histogram with good shadow detail, without cutting off highlights. I don’t recommend changing lenses in these dusty canyons (keep your digital sensor clean with a hand-squeezed blower).
  • Using a wide angle such as 17-35mm on a DSLR (~27 to 52mm on 35mm-film cameras) is good. But a 24mm lens (in terms of 35mm-film) will be even more useful in these tight slot canyons.
  • You can widen your lens angle by stitching together multiple shots using software (such as my image on the right).
    • For stitching, take each shot overlapped by a third, with exactly the same focus, exposure and white balance (such as using Manual), using the DSLR at about 24mm (36mm in terms of 35mm-film cameras). Use 17mm if you have to, but stitching may not line up as well on the edges.
    • Least distortion for stitching is usually within the range of 35 to 50mm (in terms of 35mm-film cameras).
    • On a typical DSLR (with an APS-sized sensor with ~1.5x lens multiplier), 24mm is equivalent to a 36mm lens on a 35mm-film camera. (But if you have an expensive full-framed sensor, the lenses are the same size as for film). A DSLR 24mm lens (or longer) usually stitches better than 17mm.
    • Canon supplies a good panorama stitch program in their Zoombrowser program provided free with many of their digital cameras.
    • Adobe Photoshop CS3 greatly improves the Photomerge feature versus previous Photoshop versions.
  • Upper Canyon is darker: I shot exposures of about 0.5 to 2 seconds.
  • Lower Canyon is shallower, a little brighter, and has the most interesting rock formations: I shot exposures of about 0.2 to 1 second.

This article is in response to an email question from Larry 5/23/07:  “Any tips on photographing in antelope canyon. I have a Nikon D2x and wide angle lens 17-35mm.” In reply to my tips Larry said, “Thanks for the great information. I plan to be there on Saturday, but I will definitely go to the lower canyon. Not changing the lens with all the dust sounds like a good idea. I will let you know how it works out. Your photo enclosed is fantastic. – Larry”

See also my separate Southwest USA articles: Arizona, Utah, and Nevada.

Recommended Arizona guidebooks from Amazon.com:

Search for latest Arizona travel books at Amazon.com (look for updates every 1-3 years):

2011: 2004: 2012:
2012: 2010: