A disturbing trend over the past several years has been visitors in national parks visiting less traveled areas and not respecting the beauty and resources that these natural and culturally important destinations deserve. With the wanderlust culture and the demystifying of areas via social media tourism, previously unknown and culturally significant places are becoming public attractions with the inevitable issues that go along with some individuals that simply don’t respect the destinations themselves.
The newest area to be vandalized is in Canyonlands National Park where the False Kiva is located (pictured above by Ryan Smith). According to sources at the Canyonlands National Park, there were two incidents that have caused the closure in early August. First, an unknown party or individual started a fire within the kiva itself and then used the ashes to place hand prints at the site. Sometime afterwards, another visitor attempted to clean up the kiva and disrupted the area even more. As a photographer that sees these areas in person several times a year, it is appalling at the disrespect that some individuals seem to have towards our natural and culturally distinct wonders, especially in these protected areas.
False Kiva is a Class II Archeological site that is protected more by its unmarked status than anything else. It is not necessarily easy to reach as it’s not on any national park maps as a result of this status. It takes a certain amount of intention to find and experience False Kiva, which with websites and social media starting to share these locations, has now helped in some small part to disturb and now close such a beautiful piece of history. With national parks becoming more conscious of the loss of history due to actions like vandalism, personal experiences are becoming more limited to protect these areas, which may not be what we as photographers want but what the conservation of these areas require.
Leave No Trace principals and the ethics of exploring natural areas are consistently iterated throughout the national parks through signage, pamphlets, and from the National Park Service rangers. At the entrance of every park these expectations are given to every visitor. Conservation starts with the individual and educating groups consistently and repeatedly that as these places are explored we are liable for their continued existence. It’s every person's, photographer or not, to help conserve these areas for future generations to experience.
Lead image used with permission of Ryan Smith of Lifescapeswest.