Joshua Tree National Park and it’s continuous Douche-Bag Problem

John Smolinski and I were out again this morning searching for Michael Rodriguez, the 58-year old missing man from Azusa, when we stumbled upon a rock shelter about three-quarters of a mile northeast of the Juniper Flats Backcountry board. Much to our surprise we found the shelter to have a half-dozen large, and freshly painted graffiti panels inside. Both of us being lovers of natural settings were heartbroken by the trash painted on the beautiful natural rock formation.

This is not an isolated incident in Joshua Tree by any means, the last couple of years the park has had their fair share of high-profile vandalism cases. In 2013 there was vandalism in Rattlesnake Canyon, which closed the area for several months. In 2014, there was Casey Nocket, and in 2015 Mr. Andre, a world-famous douche-bag (artist) that left graffiti near a trailhead. Barker Dam was also closed for a period to remove hundreds of names that had been carved into it.

The question is, why does Joshua Tree seem to attract a larger number of doche-bags than other National Parks, and what can be done to curb this disgusting new trend?

Upon leaving the park, we reported the site to a park ranger.


Media may contact me for full resolution images.
















About the author

Jim Mattern

Jim is a scapegoat for the NPS, an author, adventurer, photographer, radio personality, guide, and location scout. His interests lie in Native American and cultural sites, ghost towns, mines, and natural wonders in the American Deserts.


  • HI Jim: “why does Joshua Tree seem to attract a larger number of douche-bags than other National Parks[?]” Proximity. The Park is too physically near “the city” and too accessible to millions of people (and to use your term, douchebags). I believe that “1988” puts an age stamp on this (it looks like the crap graffiti of 18 year olds). Thanks for reporting it – let’s find them and teach them what their parents did not.

    • I don’t think the “1988” is a date stamp to the graffiti, but rather a birth year. The paint was very fresh looking. Dates like “1992” were used in Rattlesnake Canyon, and that was done in 2013.

    • 1988 people are almost 30… I should know, I’m one of them -_-

      I don’t think “kids these days” are inherently worse. I’ve worked with enough AMAZING young kids to know better, but that said, I grew up in that general are and there isn’t a lot of respect for the natural world, and there are a lot of low income areas. Those things combined tend to make a lot of messes of otherwise pristine areas.

      Most of those people are already too old. Let’s just keep focusing on finding ways to get kids out of the house and show them how going outside, hiking, and exploring are amazing and teach them to respect our earth!

  • Old smartphones can be repurposed as very high definition motion detecting surveillance cameras. You’d have to solar power it and hide it somehow but it would be worth it if you got some convictions… You could use the live notifications and go catch the violators yourself if you are so inclined

  • I agree that the cause is proximity to the city. I’ve also noticed a big difference in the way urbanites think of the desert even when visiting to “get away.” They see it more as something blank waiting for their “potential” (shitty douchebaggery) to improve upon it. Or simply as not containing anything that would be harmed by their actions. They also enjoy bringing the city here even when supposedly trying to get away from it, whether that be through graffiti or overpriced hipster restaurants.

  • No witnesses? Take picks of every young person you see. I personally will not call authorities. Much more fun to dish out my form of payback.

  • Better enforcement of campground rules (group size limits, parking, noise rules, no drugs), especially Black Rock and Jumbo Rocks, would cut down on douchbaggery in the park. These campgrounds are frequented on the weekends by a-holes who only want to drink, party, vandalize, throw around trash, and smoke pot because of lax enforcement.

    If they felt unwelcome in the campgrounds, they won’t come to the park and vandalism would be minimized.

  • They do it in the Black Mountains, and around Oatman, Ariz. where I live, they recently destroyed a old Adobe cabin, leveled it to the ground….

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