When rangers kayaked to Arizona’s Antelope Canyon they were greeted by the lingering stench of sewage — and hundreds of feet of graffiti.
Glen Canyon National Recreation Area officials said Sunday that rangers found and removed 550 square feet of graffiti at Antelope Canyon.
“They removed 550 square feet of graffiti while talking to visitors about the importance of respecting the rock and each other, by not defacing the natural beauty of Antelope Canyon with graffiti and human waste,” Glen Canyon rangers said in a Facebook post.
The site near Page, Arizona, is a “remarkable, mysterious beauty,” according to travel guide Visit Arizona. It was formed from millions of years of erosion and is on Navajo Nation land.
The Navajo Tribal Parks portions of Antelope Canyon are currently closed to the public, but the National Park Service side is open.
It’s become a popular kayaking destination because of how close it is to a launch ramp for non-motorized boats and vessels. It’s also a wakeless area, which is safer for kayakers, Glen Canyon officials said.
“Our rangers are going to Antelope Canyon as often as they can, but they can’t be there all the time. We are all sharing this beautiful space,” rangers said. “Please respect everyone else that comes to visit by not leaving illegal graffiti or waste behind.”
Many people on Facebook were outraged by the graffiti and found it disrespectful to deface a natural feature like Antelope Canyon. One person said the vandalism took away from their experience.
“Just disrespect for our national treasures,” one commenter said. “Thank you to those that worked on making it beautiful again.”
Others thought the National Park Service should close the area off to the public.
“Shut down all the recreational activities,” another person said. “No one respects Mother Earth or follows the rules because they know they will get away with it.”
It’s not the first time graffiti has been found at Antelope Canyon. Rangers found and removed a mile of graffiti from sandstone canyon walls in February., McClatchy News previously reported.
“The canyon walls are virtually covered in graffiti from the shoreline to the boundary with the Navajo Nation - currently a distance of about a mile,” Glen Canyon officials posted on Facebook at the time. “Graffiti - carving, painting, or writing on any manmade or natural feature is unsightly and illegal.”
The process to remove the graffiti is “painstaking,” park officials said. It starts with a team of archaeologists surveying the damage to make sure park officials don’t create more.
Then officials scrape and brush the walls to try to put the sandstone back into its original place.
“But we can only do so much,” park officials said. “Perhaps you could help by not doing any graffiti when you come visit.”
Several other recreation sites have seen an increase in graffiti and vandalism since the coronavirus pandemic began.
At Bryce Canyon National Park in Utah, a large graffiti mural was painted on the side of a concrete retaining wall in February. Nearby Zion National Park in Utah has seen blue spray paint and muddy handprints splattered on sandstone walls, names carved into logs and alcoves, and canyon walls scraped up, park officials said in December.
“Seems to be happening more and more these days,” one person said. “Lots of disrespectful, uneducated humans, out there, who seem to have no clue how to care for and/or use our beautiful outdoors.”