Peek-a-boo Slot Canyon

November 28, 2011


Photographer: Thomas McGuire
Summary Author: Thomas McGuire

Slot canyons are near-vertical canyons that are relatively common on the Colorado Plateau. The combination of torrential monsoon thunderstorms, scarce vegetation and uniform, unjointed rock layers are important characteristics of slot canyon country. Remote Peek-a-boo Canyon has a mesmerizing variety of erosional forms including pour-offs and two natural bridges/arches. It can be entered from the top via a broad valley or, a quarter mile downstream, by climbing about 15 ft (5 m) up a steep exit. 

Some of the most spectacular slot canyons, such as Peek-a-boo, have been carved in the Navajo Sandstone by flash floods. The most challenging slot canyons require swimming and technical climbing skills to navigate. Brimstone Canyon [video], about a mile from Peek-a-boo Canyon, is about 50 ft (15 m) deep and so narrow that even at midday it’s rather dark at the bottom. In fact, it's so narrow that it is nearly impossible to squeeze through.

Slot canyons can be dangerous in monsoon season (summer) because there may be no quick exit as a flash flood approaches. On August 12, 1997, eleven people on a guided tour in Lower Antelope Canyon just outside Page, Arizona, were killed by a flash flood. The torrent was the result of an unseen, unheard, distant cloudburst. The only survivor was the Navajo guide who remembered how to survive in whitewater rapids by floating on his back with his legs extended in front of him. He was recovered a quarter mile downstream, naked, bruised and temporarily blind, but very lucky to be alive. More than a decade later, remains of two of the bodies have never been found.