For most visitors to the northern Arizona town of Page, the name “Antelope Canyon” is likely to conjure up images of the luminous slot canyon that coils underground through the red sandstone of the Navajo Nation. The slot canyon walls are world-famous for their fluted rock formations and radiant light.
Less well-known, but equally gorgeous in its own way, is the magnificent section of canyon that branches off the nearby Lake Powell. There, the steep, ruddy-hued walls of Antelope Canyon are filled with the cold, emerald-green water of the Colorado River, with the azure-blue Arizona sky serving as a glorious backdrop.
In a tour that is considered a bit under the radar among Page’s many natural wonders, visitors can float through Antelope Canyon on a large, comfortable pontoon boat, passing by paddleboarders, fishermen, and kayakers along the way.
I recently traveled to the Antelope Point Marina to take a boat tour and I was struck by the diversity of the canyon. The sunny ride on the lake was a complete contrast to the softly shadowed walk through the Antelope Canyon slot canyon that I had done a few weeks before.
I absolutely loved seeing the canyon from the water, as well as from the Earth. Here are seven reasons why a boat tour is a spectacular way to see Antelope Canyon.
1. A Chance To See Lake Powell Up-Close
Lake Powell, a man-made reservoir that straddles the border of Arizona and Utah, is known for its stunning pastel color palette, its nearly 2,000 miles of shoreline, and its many recreational opportunities that include house boating, fishing, swimming, and kayaking.
The lake is also famous for its large number of adjoining canyons — 96 of them, to be exact.
Antelope Canyon is one of the major canyons among that number, and it is a beauty. The canyon walls are not as delicately formed as the ones in the Upper and Lower slot canyons, but they are immense and striking. Our pontoon operator and tour guide explained that the famous Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon slot canyons are upstream and a bit higher in elevation than the canyon on Lake Powell.
The lake canyon is filled with water because of the damming of the Colorado River at the Glen Canyon Dam near Page. Built in the late 1950s/early 1960s, the Glen Canyon Dam created Lake Powell, one of the largest man-made reservoirs in the world.
2. The Fun Lake Atmosphere
As the large pontoon boat glided over the calm lake surface, about a dozen other guests and I had freedom to walk from side to side to get the best views and the best photo angles. Along the way, the tour guide offered interesting bits of information about Lake Powell, Page, and the Navajo Nation.
I took the boat tour on a warm, sunny day in April, and I was happy to see plenty of paddleboarders and kayakers float through the canyon alongside the pontoon. We also passed by a row of large, luxurious houseboats that were docked in the marina. In fact, Lake Powell is known as one of the best spots for house boating in the U.S.
3. A Whole New Perspective On The Famous Slot Canyon
For me, it was fascinating to piece together the connection between the slot canyons in the Antelope Canyon area and the deep canyons that branch off Lake Powell. A lake map on the pontoon helped to show the complexity of the lake with its many canyons, along with the tiny sliver that makes up Antelope Canyon.
The slot canyons were carved by millions of years of runoff water that rushes through the region, much of it during the monsoon rains that occur in Arizona in the summer months. Our tour guide pointed out that the same water that runs through the Upper and Lower Antelope Canyon slot canyons ultimately makes it to the lake canyon and the Colorado River.
The boat tour offers a whole new understanding of the immensity of Glen Canyon, which was submerged under Lake Powell with the damming of the Colorado River.
4. Exploring The Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
Lake Powell is the jewel of the Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and a boat tour on the lake is a great way to take in that centerpiece. At the same time, it offers an introduction to all of the area’s other amazing features.
The Glen Canyon Recreation Area was established in 1972 and it celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. The National Park Service’s website notes that the area features not just the lake, but also “water-and-wind-carved canyons, buttes, mesas, rivers, seeps, springs, and hanging gardens where diverse habitats sustain an array of plant and animal communities.”
Glen Canyon sits on more than 1.25 million acres and stretches from Arizona’s Lees Ferry to the Vermillion Cliffs of southern Utah.
5. Magnificent Canyon Walls
Among the highlights of a boat tour through Antelope Canyon are the massive walls that rise on both sides. The canyon narrows as the tour goes on, and the feeling of being in a special and secluded place intensifies.
But the walls also emphasize another factor of the region’s climate. Because of ongoing drought conditions in the U.S. Southwest, Lake Powell’s water level is down considerably from its usual levels, and the water lines are visible on the canyon walls. Water data reports indicate that in early 2023, Lake Powell was down about 175 feet from its fullest point.
But there was good news in the spring of 2023. In mid-April, our tour guide told us that the lake was rising about 6 inches each day and that the water level was expected to increase significantly throughout the spring and early summer. The Colorado River is fed by snowmelt in the Rocky Mountains and the rise in Lake Powell is attributed to the massive snowfall in the winter of 2023.
6. The Fun Ride To The Water
The boats for the tours of Antelope Canyon are docked at a marina located below the main Antelope Point Visitor Center. Getting to the water requires a golf cart ride down a steep, twisting access road. It is a brief but exhilarating ride, with the lake and dock appearing at the end.
Guests need to check in at the main Antelope Point Marina and then catch one of the carts to the tour spot. The marina requires guests to check in 45 minutes before the scheduled time of the tour to ensure that carts will be available to transport them in time.
Pro Tip: The cart service can get busy, and you might have to wait 10–15 minutes to catch a cart on the way down to the marina, as well as on the way back.
7. The Floating Restaurant
Guests who arrive for their boat tour early won’t go hungry or thirsty, though. Antelope Point Marina features a large full-service restaurant that offers snacks, meals, and drinks — all with a panoramic view of Lake Powell.
Billed as the world’s largest floating eatery, the Jádí Tooh Restaurant is a lovely spot right on the water that offers a massive indoor seating area, as well as a lakeside patio. The menu includes burgers, sandwiches, salads, quesadillas, seafood, and pizza.
The marina also features Gramma Betty’s, a coffee shop that serves breakfast pastries and burritos, as well as the SandBar Lounge which offers cocktails and wine and has 16 beers on tap.
Pro Tip: Marketplace And Gift Shop
Everything, from souvenirs to snacks to travel essentials, is available in the Antelope Point Marina Village’s well-stocked Marketplace and Gift Shop. Guests who forget their sunglasses or water shoes need not worry, because the store has a large selection of vacation items, including flip-flops, t-shirts, hats, and hoodies. Many of the clothing items are emblazoned with images of the orange-tinted rocks of Antelope Canyon, making for great souvenirs.