Photo Journal: From Palo Duro To Slenderman Slot Canyon

Slenderman Slot Canyon, a slot canyon just on the outside of Palo Duro Canyon, had been a place I’d heard about, and finally, thanks to my friend, Todd (aka the Caprock Canyoneer, I would at long last be able to witness this natural creation for myself. Todd has a good friend who has access to this private land, and when the opportunity arrived to visit Slenderman Slot, I was ready to make the trek to Canyon, Texas, to meet up with these two fellow explorers. Bary, the guy with the access, is a tech savant, and has professional level video, drone, and still footage from this gem of the Llano slots. So, after my excursion to photograph Capitol Peak at sunrise earlier in the morning (see previous The Beauty of Palo Duro Canyon), I hiked back to the car, drove to the town square in Canyon, and met up with the gang. I’d not met Bary before, and he turned out to be a super-nice guy full of knowledge about the area.

Still recovering from the morning’s sketchy scramble up and down the ridge of scree in Palo Duro, I was more than happy to sit in the back seat and eat a granola bar and take in the flat views for the next thirty minutes. In the front seat, Bary had an IPad showing a plethora of his excellent photos and videos from the area that left me wanting to stay for several weeks!

I had a good rest in the back, and eventually, Bary turned off the paved, two-lane road and took us down a dirt path through flat, barren pasture, opened a cattle gate, entered, and parked. This was our jumping off point.

Next up was a mile-long walk through a featureless pasture. Not much later, we arrived at the edge of a cliff. This was the path down to South Cita Canyon. We descended cautiously, watching for loose rocks and rattlesnakes - not a great combination in my opinion.

The going gradually became a little more difficult – mostly because of the thick brush and all things that seek to poke or stick or bite you, but then arrived in the bottom of the canyon area and at the top of Slenderman Slot Canyon. The view from above Slenderman is unremarkable. It looks more like a large ditch. But peering more closely into the dark abyss, it becomes evident that the bottom falls a long way down. I think Bary said it was more than 40' in depth.

Bary set up a time-lapse video while Todd and I bushwhacked about 100 yards to explore another small slot named Wesley. While Wesley Slot couldn’t compare to Slenderman, its walls were still smooth and beautiful and the sunburst made for a nice composition.

Wesley Slot Canyon - Palo Duro

Not far from Slenderman, the slot canyon named Wesley is just as pristine, though not as deep. The walls are smooth and beautiful after thousands of years of water cutting through the sandstone. Here, the sun rises just above the wall to create a small sunburst through the trees.

Todd could have easily been a geologist instead of a meteorologist, and my friend explained to me this slot was what first garnered their attention when searching Google Earth for slot possibilities. After some fun scrambling around this area, it was back through fallen Trujillo bouders to the entrance of Slenderman.

Slenderman Entrance 1

The entrance to the hidden and difficult-to-access Slenderman Canyon near Palo Duro Canyon is narrow - thus the name. The walls of sandstone are smooth and beautiful and actually a welcoming sight after the bushwhack to access this area.

I so much looked forward to the sun’s warm glow on the high walls of this slot. While examining the entrance, my friends pointed out some cowboy art that was dated to 1911.

Cowboy Art from Slenderman Slot Canyon

At the entrance of Slenderman Slot Canyon, this inscription reads “Harvey Jan, 1911. On the right, the letters “ost” appear, and possibly the “L” has been worn down by weathering over the last 100 years.

Inscribed in the sandstone, the words read "Harvey Jan 1911." To the right of that, the letters "ost" are visible. Maybe the "L" weather away of the last 100 years? I can't imagine what life was like in this unforgiving land.But now it was time for the light show.High above in the Upper Chamber, we could see the orange glow of sunlight beginning to move down the walls. At the entrance to this slot, a low wall hung in front of the opening. We each took turns on our backs, resting beneath this rock overhang, photographing the warm colors of this magnificent show.

Slenderman Slot Canyon Sunburst 3

In passageways that are nearly too narrow for a person to fit through, the sun’s rays sneak through this beautiful slot canyon just outside of Palo Duro Canyon. Named “Slenderman” by locals, this slot is pristine and untouched by the outside world. An hour hike through private land (with permission by the ranch manager) led to this amazing example of the power of water and erosion in the west Texas sandstone.

After 30 minutes or so, it was time to move into the Upper Chamber. Alas, it was not to be. At the entrance and under the low hanging rock was a large mud pit, a quagmire waiting to capture anyone who dared step in. I imagined there were dinosaur bones in there. I know bat guano was in the mix as we'd seen bats flying around when we first arrived. While we were willing to wade through the mud, a 20+ foot sluice divided the upper and lower chambers. We’d need to scale up the smooth sandstone to reach the upper portion. Bary had previously rigged a rope for ascending this wall, but it had been washed away. With our current setup, it would be impossible to reach the best light.

Some discussion took place, but we eventually resigned ourselves to the predicament. Bary began thinking of ways to undo this impasse between the Upper and Lower Chamber and I just hoped to have the chance to vsiit again! We lingered a while at the entrance of Slenderman, each processing the disappointment. Finally, in relative quiet, we made the long, uphill slog out of South Cita Canyon, up several rocky washes, and across the cow pasture to Bary's car. Arriving back at the town square in Canyon thirty minutes later, we each said our goodbyes. Bary went to meet some local friends; Todd made a long drive back to his home and family in Norman; I drove down the street to Braums for a burger - my first food that didn't come from my cooler in three days! There, I ate in the quiet of my car while reading more about the next portion of my adventure - my first trip to Caprock Canyons State Park. There, I hoped to shoot the Draconids meteor shower while also shooting a few sunrises and sunsets shining on red canyon walls.

Thanks for reading. Up next - Caprock Canyons.

~ Rob

slot canyon, palo duro canyon, slenderman, hiking, exploring, sandstone, photo

Slenderman Slot Canyon Sunburst 3

In passageways that are nearly too narrow for a person to fit through, the sun’s rays sneak through this beautiful slot canyon just outside of Palo Duro Canyon. Named “Slenderman” by locals, this slot is pristine and untouched by the outside world. An hour hike through private land (with permission by the ranch manager) led to this amazing example of the power of water and erosion in the west Texas sandstone.

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