Joshua Tree tourist fined and banned for climbing into 600-year-old cave

Landscape at Joshua Tree National Park, USA
(Image credit: Getty)

A man from Minnesota has been fined $540 after climbing into an ancient cave at Joshua Tree National Park. Alexander Lee Demko is also banned from all US National Parks for a year.

The 34-year-old, who lives in Minneapolis, was found guilty of illegally entering, climbing, walking on, and traversing the Barker Dam Petroglyphs site.

The Barker Dam Trail is a popular hiking route that takes walkers on an easy 1.2-mile loop around some of the park's picturesque rock formations. At the southern end, visitors can see ancient petroglyphs carved into the rock, which give an insight into ancient human habitation in the area.

It's believed that a movie crew painted the petroglyphs red in the 1960s to make them show up better on film. The National Park Service (NPS) is keen to avoid any further damage, and asks visitors not to climb on or disturb the rock art in any way.

"Rock art may not be immediately visible and may exist on any portion of the rock, so please refrain from stepping on, climbing on, or touching any part of the rock formation," the NPS says. "View the rock art from a respectable distance at the signage for the site."

According to local news site Desert Sun, the court was shown evidence of Demko ignoring a clearly posted sign to walk into the cave, and walking over other features including a milling station.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.