Officials closed two sections of Southern California’s famed Joshua Tree National Park Monday after efforts by looters to remove artifacts from the areas have continued, according to park superintendent David Smith.
The two sections are secluded mines known as Carey’s Castle and the El Sid Mine. Located in the Eagle Mountains in the southeast area of the park, both locations are famous for the mining relics they house.
“We had some looting at El Sid that started a few months ago,” Smith told the Los Angeles Times. “We actually bought some artifacts to replace the original ones and they got stolen, too.”
Smith said that most of the stolen articles date back to the Great Depression, when both El Sid and Carey’s Castle were popular mining homesteads.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the looting is that neither of the sites is particularly popular. Officials guess that due to their remote locations and the fairly difficult hike required to get to both places, most months they see only a handful of visitors.
“It’s not a place for weekenders,” spokesman George Land told the Desert Sun. “Generally, more experienced and more avid hikers would go there.”
Land refused to get into what was stolen from the sites, saying that doing so wouldn’t help deter future thefts, but did note that they were man-made items with cultural significance.
“It doesn’t serve our purpose to let these wrongdoers know what’s actually out there,” he said.
With more than 2 million people visiting the park in 2015, Land emphasized that only a small minority of visitors were causing trouble, but that unfortunately their mindsets might be impossible to change.
“Unfortunately, there is that element that feels like if they find any type of cultural artifact or anything on the site, they feel they should take it home with them,” Land said.
Smith said that the areas will remained closed for an indefinite period of time, specifying only that the closures will last at least a month and that they will reopen when “we’re confident that we have the tools in place to effectively monitor the areas and prevent any further losses.”
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