The History & Legacy Behind Ken’s Tours

by | Jun 12, 2024 | Uncategorized | 0 comments

Antelope Canyon is one of nature’s many natural wonders located in Page, Arizona. It’s a slot canyon formed by the erosion of Navajo sandstone, primarily due to flash flooding and wind. The result is narrow passageways that make you feel like you stepped into another world!

Ken’s Tours has a long and significant history in the preservation and conservation of this area. Our mission is to protect and manage tours in Lower Antelope Canyon while providing an unforgettable experience for our guests.

Our core values stem from a solid foundation of customer service and safety and from the careful inclusion of our Navajo culture that we share with all our visitors.

A guide leading a kens tours group

Ken’s Tours is a Family Affair

Ken’s Tours is more than just a business; it’s a family affair deeply rooted in the history of Antelope Canyon tourism. Founded in 1994 by Kenneth and Emily Young, the company traces its origins back to 1992 when Kenneth and his siblings began leading tours into Lower Antelope Canyon.

Initially, the siblings took turns guiding visitors through the stunning canyon daily. However, recognizing the growing demand for guided tours and the potential to share their knowledge of this landmark and Navajo history, Kenneth and Emily officially established Ken’s Tours LLC in 1994.

Stairs into antelope canyon

The Tragic 1997 Flash Flood

In August of 1997, 11 people tragically perished during a flash flood at Lower Antelope. Kenneth’s brother and wife were taking tours that fateful day. Navajo Nation closed down the area to visitors for a year. Due to national coverage of the accident, Lower Antelope became a site of interest, and people started to trespass into the canyon. This led to vandalism, littering, and desecration of the area, where people graffitied and built campfires inside, causing damage to the canyon walls.

Antelope Canyon

Preservation Amidst Peril

Because of the vandalism, the Navajo Nation asked Kenneth and Emily directly to open up tours again so they could watch over and preserve Lower Antelope Canyon. Kenneth had one very strong and important condition – he would do so if they allowed him to build metal stairwells bolted throughout the canyon walls to allow for a quicker and safer exit throughout Lower Antelope Canyon.

Ken wanted to make sure that tragedy never occurred again and wanted to ensure the safety of all the guests who chose Ken’s Tours to visit Antelope Canyon.

People stepping down into Antelope Cayon

The Birth of Ken’s Tours LLC

Navajo Nation agreed to let Kenneth build the stairwells to prevent the tragic event of August 1997 from happening again. Kenneth, his son Kenny Young, and his son-in-law Lloyd Pahi built the original stairwells. Shortly after, they were allowed to operate as the sole operator for Lower Antelope and re-opened their business as Ken’s Tours. 

Since then, one other operator was allowed to open their business at Lower Antelope, Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, operated by Kenneth’s sister Dixie Ellis. Together they work closely to ensure the canyon and surrounding area is protected and preserved while allowing safe and educational tours for visitors.

Couple taking selfie in Antelope Canyon

Preserving the Past, Present, and Future

Ken’s Tours is not the only company that works in Lower Antelope Canyon. Lower Antelope Canyon Tours also works in the same area and is committed to preserving Antelope Canyon’s rich heritage and natural beauty. Antelope Canyon formed thousands of years ago, and it’s important to safeguard this landmark for future generations to explore. 

Through close cooperation, Ken’s Tours and Lower Antelope Canyon Tours have implemented many measures to ensure the safety of visitors while minimizing the impact on the canyon’s fragile environment. This includes responsible tour management practices, such as limiting group sizes, adhering to designated trails, and providing trained guides who highlight the respect for the canyon’s cultural and ecological significance.

Moreover, both companies actively engage in conservation initiatives to protect Antelope Canyon’s delicate ecosystem. This includes ongoing efforts to monitor and mitigate erosion, promote responsible tourism practices, and support local environmental initiatives.

As a guardian of Antelope Canyon, Ken’s Tours has played a vital role in promoting responsible tourism practices and environmental conservation efforts. Through close collaboration with Lower Antelope Canyon Tours, the Navajo community, and other stakeholders, Ken’s Tours has prioritized visitor safety and the preservation of the canyon’s natural beauty. Ken’s Tours takes pride in telling the stories that this slot canyon holds to visitors from around the world.

If you’re interested in booking a tour with Ken’s Tours, visit our booking page to learn more about our different tour packages!

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