Lindsay Whitehurst

SALT LAKE CITY: A series of graffiti-like paintings on rocks in National Parks across the West set off a furor on social media this month, angering people who say they desecrated some of the nation’s most famously picturesque landscapes. They’ve also created a headache for park managers who have the delicate task of cleaning up the sites without causing further damage.

It won’t be easy to get rid of the paintings, which were posted on Instagram and Tumblr and then picked up by hiking blogs. Sandblasting and some chemical strippers can cause even more damage to irreplaceable natural features, especially if graffiti is near ancient rock art.

In some cases, workers use plastic kitchen spatulas to painstakingly scrape off paint. Workers test different strippers to figure out which will loosen the material without damaging rock, then rinse it off with lots of low-pressure hot water, gently scraping each layer away with the spatula, said National Parks spokesman Jason Olson.

“They will repeat that as often as it takes until they remove all the paint or until they can’t remove any more,” he said. He said Friday he didn’t know how much it might cost to go remove the paint in eight parks across California, Colorado, Utah and Oregon. One colorful painting of a woman with blue hair at Crater Lake National Park is already covered in ice and snow and workers might not be able to reach it until next summer.

Casey Nocket, the 21-year-old suspect identified by the park service this week, allegedly used acrylic paint and signed with the handle “creepytings.” Attempts to reach Nocket were unsuccessful. A phone listing for her was disconnected and her social media accounts have been shut down or made private.

The case became the subject of widespread social media outrage from people reacting to paintings inserted into the landscape and documented as an apparent artistic expression.

The National Park Service said this week they’ve found paintings in Yosemite, Death Valley and Joshua Tree in California; Crater Lake in Oregon; Zion National Park and Canyonlands in Utah; and Rocky Mountain in Colorado, where Colorado National Monument was also tagged.

Zion National Park is home to red-rock bluffs, sweeping canyons— and now a backpack-sized drawing of a woman smoking on a rock.