At 3.3 million acres, Death Valley National Park is America's largest national park outside Alaska.
But is this desert sanctuary in eastern California too big to protect the treasures within its boundaries?
Hike the back-country in Death Valley and you may be surprised -- as I have been -- to find signs of illegal plundering, and attempted plundering, of archeological artifacts, such as this Native American petroglyph that someone clearly has tried to remove with a chisel.
Last winter, not far from where this photo was taken in May, I came across more evidence of illegal activity near a circle of stones that appears to be a Native American medical wheel, or sacred hoop, where indigenous people once gathered for ceremonies. Here, in an isolated corner of a national park set aside for the benefit of all Americans, someone had apparently been digging for arrowheads and other artifacts, for their private benefit.
Obviously, patrolling a national park larger than Yellowstone and Yosemite combined is an enormous challenge. But just as obviously, more effective law enforcement is in order; otherwise, the archaeological treasures that make Death Valley and other national parks special will continue to disappear, not unlike pieces of art work from a museum wall.