National Park Service employees had to roll out about 600 feet of hose to erase the latest graffiti at Death Valley.
Sometime in late October, unknown vandals scratched letters and symbols as large as 20 feet high and 40 feet across into the mud bottom of Ubehebe Crater at the northern end of the national park about 180 miles northwest of Las Vegas.
After fielding complaints from visitors about the graffiti, the park dispatched a water tanker and a team of seven park employees to the crater Nov. 7.
The cleanup crew ran a hose from the tanker to the bottom of the active volcano and soaked the scars in the dried mud, allowing the surface to return to its natural color and appearance.
“The marks would likely have been erased by the next significant rainfall, but that can be a long wait in Death Valley,” the park service said in a statement.
Park workers could have raked away the graffiti, but that could have opened the ground to invasion by nonnative weeds, officials said.
Death Valley has seen a rash of theft and vandalism in recent years, including visitors illegally driving on Racetrack Playa and the salt pan at Badwater Basin, “decorating” rocks as part of unauthorized art projects in the park and stealing Indian artifacts and fossilized footprints left by prehistoric animals.
According to park officials, Ubehebe Crater is considered sacred to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe and important to scientists studying everything from vulcanism to soil and rock samples collected by rovers on Mars.
Including drive time to and from the crater, the cleanup took about nine hours.
Anyone with information about the vandals is encouraged to contact the park rangers’ office at 760-786-3245.