DEATH VALLEY – Death Valley National Park rangers erased graffiti from the bottom of Ubehebe Crater on November 7.

A few weeks earlier, unknown vandals scratched large symbols and letters into Ubehebe Crater’s mud bottom. The marks would likely have been erased by the next significant rainfall, but that can be a long wait in Death Valley. Meanwhile, park visitors complained about the graffiti.

Ubehebe Crater is a maar—or steam explosion—volcano in northern Death Valley National Park. Geologists believe it may have erupted most recently only a few hundred years ago, making it an active volcano.

The site is sacred to the Timbisha Shoshone tribe, who call it Tem-pin-tta Wo’sah, meaning Coyote’s Basket. Ubehebe’s dramatic beauty makes it a popular destination for park visitors.

It’s also an active research site. NASA’s Dr. Rosalba Bonaccorsi studies sediment in the bottom of Ubehebe Crater to understand information collected by the Mars rover.

Park employees ran a water hose from a tanker in the parking lot about 600 feet to the bottom of the crater. Park staff then sprayed water over the dried mud floor. When the pools of water dried up, the graffiti had disappeared and the natural color and patterns of the crater had returned. This method was used instead of raking, which would have been less labor intensive, but would have encouraged invasion by nonnative weeds.

Including drive time, the project took 7 park employees 9 hours to complete.

Anyone with information about the vandals is encouraged to contact the park.