Vandalism at False Kiva: Canyonlands Closes Access

Vandalism at False Kiva: Canyonlands Closes Access

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.

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10 Comments

Elan Govan's picture

I live in a part of the world where social changes are slow and hard to achieve, but there a few things that I am proud of, and one of them is the way local people respect burial grounds, and this includes Christian burial grounds.

Chad D's picture

no kapu sadly

sadly todays narcissistic society this is what we get which is really sad with very few respecting anything anymore

This is why I am in favor of bringing back corporal punishment. I think a few public beatings for crap like this would go a long way.

Lorretta Clarke's picture

I agree with all the comments before me, there seems to be an epidemic of people with no moral compass, just like the idiot that threw an empty coke can on the freeway today that damaged our car. The jewel in the crown of america is our national parks, it is a shame that some people don't respect them.

More selfish stupidity from Homo atrocianus.

Liam Doran's picture

This is so disappointing but sadly not surprising. Glad I got to see it before it was vandalized and closed. Dammit.....

Quick proofreading comment... "Leave No Trace principles..."

I have visited False Kiva many times and so very sad that I won’t be able to capture more images of such a stunning site!

Such Bullshit. I'm with Jason Freis, bring on the corporal punishment. Another in a growing list of sites that have been vandalized by idiot humans. It will be a very long time before this opens back up, if ever. I hope I am wrong.

Matt Payne's picture

Look, as photographers we are all to blame for this. There are countless websites with instructions on how to reach these places. Countless people share their photos online and then spoonfeed directions to anyone that asks. We should use our power as photographers to educate folks about the fragility of and respect to these locations. My two cents.