Text and images @Jack Graham unless otherwise notes… All rights Reserved
Yes folks, Disneyland has come to the beautiful Canyon lands, red rock land and Navajo Country in Northern Arizona and Utah. For me I am probably done coming back here. It is not even close to being what it was like even 2-3 years ago when it began getting crowded.
I just finished leading another workshop featuring locations in and around Page, AZ, notably Upper and Lower Antelope Canyons (Slot Canyons), Horseshoe Bend, Vermillion Cliffs, Lake Powell and more.
When I first visited this beautiful area things were a lot different. Descending into Lower Antelope Canyon was done by climbing down on wooden ladders, sometimes made out of tree trunks and 2x4s. If you saw another photographer with a tripod, he or she was a really serious photographer.
I knew something was up when I found that most hotel rooms in Page AZ were sold out for my workshop in September 2016 by January 2016. Not only were they sold out but the prices have gone up about 70-100% in the past 2 to 3 years.
Hotel rooms in Page this time of year are $150.00-300.00 for a decent place. (Stay out of the Best Western Plus at Lake Powell—more about that soon!)
I arrived into Page only to find that what use to cost $85.00 per person for a two-hour photo tour in Upper Antelope Canyon last year, was now $250.00!—YES ….. $250.00 PER PERSON FOR 2 HOURS!!!!!
I include the canyon entrance fees in my pricing so if goes up I take a bath on it. No one from the Tour Company bothered to let me know about the price increase even though I made my reservations with them long before I arrived …oh well, supply and demand dictates price and the Navajos are really taking advantage of what people are willing to pay. In a casual conversation, my good friend in the tour company asked if I had reservations for Lower Antelope Canyon. Surprised, I asked “Since when did you need reservations?” He said this policy started a few months ago. AMAZING!
Parking lot–Lower Antelope 130+cars–mid morning
I had to split up my group into 3 days so everyone could get into both canyons. SO now I had to get reservations at Lower. I secured the last 14 available. I had to split up my group. There were literally no photo tour reservations available for either canyon for 4 to 5 days. I got really lucky. I had reservations for Upper but didn’t know there were reservations needed for Lower Antelope.
The Navajo who are setting limits for how many people can go into the canyon are doing a terrible job. It’s all about the money. There is literally wall to wall people in these canyons for much of the day. Remember this is September. I would not be surprised if the numbers were even larger in the summer…hard to believe but true.
Lower Antelope Parking Lot
The parking lot at Lower Antelope Canyon which 5 years ago usually had 10-20 cars, now had over 200 cars around 11AM. (Along with tour buses). The one small hut, good for fitting 3-4 folks selling tickets at 35-40.00 a piece, has now turned into 2 large (and I mean large) houses charging about 85.00 for a 2 hr. photo tour. Again the crowds make taking any quality images difficult to impossible (in both canyons).
How can you get some good images in these locations? First, go in winter. Crowds (at least for now) are much less. The light is a bit different but no better or worse. You’ll see more purples in the sandstone walls than during the summer. Who knows maybe they might even drop pricing in the winter, but the Navajos are getting really greedy so who knows. You cannot…AND I REPEAT … CAN NOT make quality images during these crowded times in the spring, summer and now fall. It’s over, unless the Navajos limit how many people they let into the canyons. I double that will happen.
HORSESHOE BEND: We got there for sunrise. We were there in the dark, the first group there about 1 hour and 30 min before sunrise. Soon after, the crowds came over the ridge and groups of young people showed up yelling, taking selfies, posing on the ledges and making the silence of the red rocks disappear. So much for enjoying what was once a beautiful peaceful place is now Disneyland.
Here is a real idiot at Horseshoe Bend…its 950 feet down-posing for a picture with her feet hanging over the rock !!!
I am hearing that the US Government (who owns Horseshoe Bend land. Not the Navajo Nation) is going to charge an entrance fee (or requiring a National Park Pass) to park in the lot. I bet they will do what they did at Zabriskie Point in Death Valley and put up a chain link fence. You heard it here first! That afternoon I counted 167 cars and 4 tour buses in the parking lot of Horseshoe bend….Yes cross this off the list as well.
Now on to beautiful Monument Valley. Both the View Hotel (150-200 rooms at 250.00 per night is filled as well as Goulding’s…(219.00 per night), more with new additional rooms…ARE ALL FILLED. Traffic in the valley is the worse ever. Footprints on the duns made by folks who don’t care about the land make getting images at Totem Pole impossible.
We are heading to Canyon de Chelly on Friday. It will be interesting to see how things are there. Stay tuned.
To my workshop attendees who were and are here with me…I apologize for the crowds etc. Most of this is out of my control. What is in my control is whether I come back or not. I am not sure if I or any other workshop leader can deliver a quality experience to anyone in this location anymore. I’ll be monitoring this situation and if it changes I might be back. For now it’s on to other places. The Navajo’s are making lots of money ( funny most of my wonderful Navajo friends are not living any better—it’s all going to the nation , not to the people—sound familiar?)
What a shame. Disneyland is now here! —JG