Travel | January 15, 2022 6:35 am

Idiot Tourists Carve Their Names Over Ancient Petroglyphs at Big Bend

It's one of more than 50 documented instances of vandalism to the rock art, believed to be 3,000 years old, since 2015

Juniper Canyon in Big Bend National Park
Juniper Canyon in Big Bend National Park

In the latest chapter of “Tourists Doing Unnecessarily Bad Things,” a group of vandals caused irreparable damage to a panel of ancient petroglyphs in the Indian Head area of Big Bend National Park last month.

It’s certainly not the first incident of its kind. Carvings in the Colosseum walls, broken Moai statues on Easter Island, spray-painted Tottori Sand Dunes in Japan: all tell the story of a society growing increasingly less concerned with the preservation of its history than with performative destruction for a few Instagram views.

According to a report from the National Park Service, on December 26, a group of tourists who have not yet been identified (but whose names we know are Adrian, Ariel, Isaac and Norma) “boldly scratched their names and the date across the prehistoric art,” which is believed to be somewhere in the vicinity of 3,000 years old. It’s one of more than 50 documented instances of vandalism to the rock art since 2015.

“Big Bend National Park belongs to all of us. Damaging natural features and rock art destroys the very beauty and history that the American people want to protect in our parks,” Big Bend National Park Superintendent Bob Krumenaker said in a statement. “With each instance of vandalism, part of our Nation’s heritage is lost forever.”

That said, park officials urge other park-goers to stave off trying to clean up the damage themselves: “Trained staff will attempt to mitigate the damage as quickly as possible, using highly specialized techniques. Staff have already treated the most recent vandalism at Indian Head, but much of the damage is, unfortunately, permanent.”

It’s no secret that the pandemic has been especially hard on National Parks. Lack of alternatives led to an uptick in park-goers, though not always of the usual flavor. Coupled with a lack of personnel and other resources, there was a surge in both trespassing and vandalism in parks nationwide — the effects of which are still being felt at many.

Fortunately, there’s a relatively new and exponentially more efficient way of reporting acts of vandal in the park should you happen to bear witness to one. The NPS Investigative Services Facebook Page allows anyone to submit tips and all other manner of information anonymously  via Facebook messenger. Further, you can also submit a tip via the tip line, email or on the NPS Investigative Services website.

Also, for whoever needs to hear this (ahem, Adrian, Ariel, Isaac and Norma): if you’re going to do something illegal like damage park resources, a violation of 36 CFR (Code of Federal Regulations), probably don’t do it using your name and the date on which the crime was committed.