Vandalism Prompts Closure At Joshua Tree National Park

Barker Dam in 1978. The dam is now off-limits. | Photo: LCGS Russ/Wikimedia Commons

Vandalism of the Barker Dam has forced the management of Joshua Tree National Park to close off access to the popular area until further notice. The dam, built in 1900 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has seen an explosion of graffiti since around October, says Jan Keswick, the Park's Branch Chief of Cultural Resources.

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Physical access to the dam is being closed from 130 feet upstream to 180 feet downstream of the dam to protect it from continued damage. The popular nearby Barker Dam trail will remain open. The area is one of the most-visited in the Park, near the Hidden Valley area at the east end of the Wonderland of Rocks.

Keswick says that the Dam, which backs up a significant lake during wet seasons, has a patinated surface on its upstream side, into which visitors apparently began to carve graffiti sometime last fall. "Our guess is that once the first people did it, sometime in October, it served as an attractive nuisance and people decided it was the thing to do."

Graffiti damage to the dam | Photo: National Park Service

Any plans for repair will wait until after an upcoming meeting to discuss remedies for vandalism at the Dam and other sites throughout the Park.

Until then, says Keswick, visitors on the Barker Dam Trail who see apparent vandalism in progress should report it to a ranger.

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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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I visited last summer when it was dry but bore no vandalism. This is what I saw: http://www.avoidingregret.com/2013/02/photo-essay-joshua-trees-barker-dam.html