Joshua Tree Canyon Closed Over Unusual Graffiti

Rangers say social media could be fueling vandalism

By Matt Cantor,  Newser Staff

Posted Apr 12, 2013 7:15 AM CDT

(Newser) – Some 300 acres of California's Joshua Tree National Park are closed to visitors thanks to a rare spate of graffiti. First, park rangers closed an area surrounding a historic dam following the discovery of carved graffiti. Then, this week, the popular Rattlesnake Canyon was closed after words—including "nature boy" and "oatmeal cookie"—were found painted onto boulders, the Wall Street Journal reports. The canyon is set to be closed for the rest of the month, while the dam area is closed indefinitely, officials say.

"People are appalled and people are wondering how it could happen here, in a national park," says a ranger. Indeed, just 4.8 incidents of vandalism per park occurred last year. One possible reason for the graffiti's spread: social media, which "has appeared to spark numerous individuals' interest in adding to the vandalism," rangers say, per the Los Angeles Times. (The Post notes they didn't specify which social media sites may be involved.) It's not just natural beauty at risk: "The continued malicious desecration of the national park has now impacted archeological sites," officials say. Native American petroglyphs may have been damaged; rangers are trying to figure out how to clean the sites without hurting them further.

This Feb. 13, 2008 photo courtesy of National Park Service shows an area just south of Cottonwood Campground in Joshua Tree National Park, Calif.   (AP Photo/National Park Service)
Who is "Nature Boy?"   (National Park Service)
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