Why We Can't Have Nice Things: Graffiti Closes Another Joshua Tree Spot

Older graffiti in Rattlesnake Canyon | Photo: Courtesy National Park Service

Two months to the day after a spate of vandalism promoted officials to close the popular Barker Dam area in Joshua Tree National Park, a new rash of graffiti has prompted the closing of yet another popular day use area, this time at Rattlesnake Canyon near the Indian Cove campground.

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Photo: Courtesy National Park ServiceThe canyon, which runs uphill into the Wonderland of Rocks area from the Indian Cove facility, will be closed effective immediately for assessment and restoration until at least the end of April, at which point the Park Service will decide whether the canyon can be reopened.

Rattlesnake Canyon's closure will seriously cramp the style of canyoneering visitors, who use the rugged, non-technical climb through the ravine as a connecting route between Indian Cove and Willow Hole. Known for its water-polished slot canyons and waterfalls, the canyon is a favorite destination among Southern California boulderers.

According to a Park Service press release, vandalism in the canyon has increased markedly since January, to the point where the problem has overwhelmed management resources:

The continued malicious desecration of the national park has now impacted archeological sites. Limits to fiscal and personnel resources restrict the immediate remediation of the area. Therefore to prevent continued damage to scenic, natural, and cultural resources, the entire day use area of Rattlesnake Canyon from the day use closure gate to the top of the canyon is closed to public entry.

So now two popular spots in Joshua Tree are closed due to some people who have inexplicable urges to deface beautiful wild places. This is why we can't have nice things.

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About the Author

Chris Clarke is a natural history writer and environmental journalist currently at work on a book about the Joshua tree. He lives in Joshua Tree.
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LEAVE A COMMENT Leave Comment  


It's really difficult to defend making wilderness areas accessible to people when people keep doing things like this to wilderness areas.


Somtimes I wonder at the compitence of park staff. There is absolutly no reason the area needs to be closed. A few well hiden trail cameras and increased patrols will solve the problem, they have the funds as it is the most visited desert park in the country.


Whenever we're hiking and we come upon areas covered in graffiti, we usually stop and read it. I've never considered it a nuisance. I guess it's not natural, but I still find it interesting to look at.