News Release

Extensive Area Damaged by Rock Cairns in Petroglyph National Monument; Rangers Investigating Incident

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Date: June 25, 2021

An extensive area within Petroglyph National Monument (Monument) was damaged by visitors creating several hundred rock “cairns” across the landscape. The damage was discovered by park neighbors on June 17 and reported to park staff and is under investigation.

Rock cairns are human-made stacks, mounds, or piles of rocks. Creating new rock cairns is considered vandalism and is a violation of federal regulations. More than 300 newly created rock cairns were found. The cairns ranged in size from small 2-3 rock cairns, to large cairns several feet high comprised of dozens of rocks.

The newly created cairns damage Monument resources in numerous ways. Moving rocks around can destroy archeological sites, increases the potential for erosion by exposing the soils to wind and water erosion, and can disturb wildlife, plants, and insects that make their home in the protected underside of the rocks. Rocks should not be moved, stacked, used to create designs, or altered in any way.

The area affected includes portions of the Las Imagines Archaeological District which encompasses the 17-mile long West Mesa (Escarpment) and includes more than 20,000 petroglyphs and numerous recorded archaeological sites.

Superintendent Nancy Hendricks stated, “We ask that our visitors please respect these sacred landscapes and refrain from moving or stacking rocks, and practice ‘Leave No Trace™’ principles when visiting the Monument. Moving, stacking, or making shapes out of rocks is a form of vandalism and will impact every visitor who comes after.”

Monument work crews are carefully dismantling the rock cairns and placing the rocks at their point of origin based on evidence / onsite soil disturbance. Full restoration is not possible because the exact location of the rocks that were moved to construct the cairns is not known.

If the public has information that can help find the perpetrators of this vandalism, they are asked to contact the park at 505-899-0205, or by email at


Petroglyph National Monument was established as a unit of the National Park Service in 1990 to protect and promote the understanding of petroglyphs in context with the cultural and natural features of the Albuquerque’s West Mesa (Escarpment) and perpetuate the heritage of traditional communities connected to these landscapes. The Monument is significant to 29 area pueblos and tribes who consider this landscape sacred.

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About the National Park Service: More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America’s 423 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Learn more at

Last updated: June 26, 2021

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