Tourists have permanently damaged an ancient petroglyph in Texas’s Big Bend National Park by graffitiing their names onto it, say authorities.

The remote national park in West Texas is home to several petroglyphs – ritualistic rock art created thousands of years ago by Native Americans.

However, a damaging trend has emerged of visitors etching their names onto the rock face in the park, obscuring the original markings – some of them 3,000 years old.

The US’s National Parks Service has recorded some 50 instances of vandalism at Big Bend since 2015.

In this latest incident, the vandals carved their names and the date onto a well-preserved petroglyph on 26 December, said the park’s superintendent, Bob Krumenaker.

“Big Bend National Park belongs to all of us. Damaging natural features and rock art destroys the very beauty and history that the American people want to protect in our parks,” Krumenaker said in a statement.

“With each instance of vandalism, part of our Nation’s heritage is lost forever.”

Authorities at Big Bend are asking anyone who has information about the latest act of vandalism to come forward.

They also urged visitors not to try to clean up or rub off graffiti they see in the park.

“Trained staff will attempt to mitigate the damage as quickly as possible, using highly specialized techniques,” read a statement from the park team.

“Staff have already treated the most recent vandalism at Indian Head, but much of the damage is, unfortunately, permanent.”

Located near the Mexican border in Texas, Big Bend stretches over 800,000 acres and is rich with Native American history – the oldest archaeological site there is 8,800 years old.

It’s popular with adventure-seeking travellers for hiking, river-rafting and road trips, with traditional rock houses and remote lodges to overnight in.

The US National Parks Service recently announced the five days in 2022 when you can visit the parks free of charge instead of paying for entry.

They are: 17 January, 16 April, 4 August, 24 September and 11 November.

“National parks are for everyone and we are committed to increasing access and providing opportunities for all to experience the sense of wonder, awe and refreshment that comes with a visit to these treasured landscapes and sites,” said National Park Service Director Chuck Sams.

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