Rangers want help identifying pair suspected of archeological theft in Canyonlands NP

May 16, 2024, 4:43 PM

two people suspected of archeological theft...

Images obtained and grouped together of two people in the Cave Spring area of Canyonlands National Park (NPS)


MOAB — Rangers are asking for the public’s help identifying two visitors to the Cave Springs site in Canyonlands National Park who are suspected of archeological theft.

The man and woman captured on trail cameras in a historical cowboy camp at Cave Springs are suspected of removing artifacts from a cabinet and handling historic harnesses, potentially damaging them. Their illegal actions were done in an area marked closed by signs.

Cave Springs is in the Needles District of Canyonlands, one of three areas cut into sections by the Green and Colorado rivers.

“In a video recorded at the archeological site, the individuals entered a signed-as-closed area, removed artifacts from a cabinet, and handled historic harnesses in a manner that had potential to damage them,” the National Park Service said.

Law enforcement rangers in national parks complete training and are commissioned federal law enforcement officers. They are investigating a visit on March 23 at approximately 5:30 p.m.

” If you were in the area of Cave Spring Cowboy Camp at approximately 5:30 p.m. on March 23, 2024, or if you have information that could help identify the suspects, please contact investigators. Tips can be anonymous,” the National Park Service said.

Cowboy camps

Canyonlands was established as a national park in 1964 but cowboys used camps in the area from the late 1800s through 1975 while the raised cattle on the open range. The camps, like the one at Cave Spring, relied on consistent water sources, like springs, to remain in the open-range wilderness.

Water sources and more information

The spring and cave have much older architectural merit beyond their most recent use. According to the National Parks Service: “In the alcove beyond the cowboy camp, you may notice soot-blackened ceilings, handprints, & painted figures. These tell us that this precious resource also attracted earlier people.”

The NPS said native people used the area from approximately 6,000 years ago until 700 years ago.

Cave Spring Canyonlands National Park

Men who wrangled cattle from the late 1800s to 1975, leaving camps behind in Canyonlands National Park. This is an undated photo. (NPS, Neal Herbert)

The park itself is more than 337,000 acres of land and water, with no roads crossing from one district to another. The areas are remote and have few services, making human monitoring of sensitive areas impractical. That can make locations, like Cave Springs vulnerable to archeological theft.

“Descendants of these people still live in the region and consider the spring a sacred place. Help protect our heritage by not entering the spring,” the park service said. “Do not touch or mark the rock markings. It is a violation of federal law to deface pictographs.”

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Rangers want help identifying pair suspected of archeological theft in Canyonlands NP