Joshua Tree Park Battered by Damage During Shutdown

Joshua trees cut down. Graffiti painted on rocks. Those images and more circulated like wildfire on social media as people expressed outrage over the damage in California’s Joshua Tree National Park, open but unprotected during the federal government shutdown.

“Dreadful,” Sandra Rosenburg tweeted on Jan. 10. “Those who cut down Joshua trees need to be prosecuted.”

Graffiti painted on a rock at Joshua Tree National Park in California. Photo provided by National Park Service.

Visitors have been illegally driving off road, cutting down trees, and spray-painting rocks, Joshua Tree Superintendent David Smith told National Parks Traveler, which provides news on national parks.

“There are about a dozen instances of extensive vehicle traffic off roads and in some cases into wilderness. We had destruction of government property with the cutting of chains and locks for people to access campgrounds,” Smith told National Parks Traveler.

A statement on the park’s website on Jan. 8 said that revenue from recreation fees would be used to bring back maintenance crews to address sanitation issues, and maintain some visitor services, including reopening the campgrounds. The park also expects to bring back additional staff to ensure the protection of park resources and mitigate some of the damage that has occurred.

Joshua Tree is not alone among national parks struggling during the government shutdown. Although the parks remain open, staff has been reduced, litter has piled up, and there have been reports of illegal camping.

Some states have stepped in with funding and volunteers also have helped with maintenance.

Lead image provided by National Park Service.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Nikki : Jan 13th

    As someone who camped in Joshua Tree during the early days of the shutdown (and practiced LNT principles religiously), the amount of damage the park’s front country is getting is horrific.
    Highly encouraging everyone, no matter what their political bent is, to call their representatives and ask that the park service be fully shut down, as the damage to our public lands is catastrophic.

  • [email protected] : Jan 14th

    Sickening? Lefty trump hater spin. Trek getting political, how about some objective reportage like. HTTPS ://


What Do You Think?