Visitors to Utah’s mysterious obelisk left behind human waste, scarred the land

(Zak Podmore | The Salt Lake Tribune) After disappearing sometime Friday night, the triangular top of the now-famous obelisk in San Juan County and a hole in the ground were all that was left of what quickly became an international fixation. November 28, 2020.

As mysteriously as it came, the world-famous Utah obelisk illegally installed in a San Juan County redrock slot canyon disappeared Friday night, the Bureau of Land Management said and a Salt Lake Tribune reporter confirmed in a visit to the site. Whoever removed the sculpture left only a triangular hole and a piece of metal from the top of the structure — but the many visitors who flocked to the remote site over the week of Thanksgiving also left evidence of their journeys behind.

On Sunday, the BLM said in a news release that people “parked on vegetation and left behind human waste” when visiting the undeveloped site, which is not equipped with a designated parking lot or restrooms. Photos the agency tweeted Sunday show where the shining steel pillar once stood, as well as a group of vehicles parked off a dirt road in sagebrush, the red landscape scarred by crisscrossing tire tracks, and what could be a piece of toilet paper sticking out of the ground.

Driving off designated roads and trails in the Monticello Field Office is illegal, the BLM also said.

(Photo courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management) Vehicles are shown parked off the road in sagebrush on the way to the desert Utah "obelisk" — which disappeared Friday.

BLM officials recommended Sunday that people do not attempt to visit the former location of the obelisk, also called the “monolith,” saying the canyon doesn’t have the services to support crowds.

“We recognize the incredible interest the ‘monolith’ has generated worldwide. Many people have been enjoying the mystery and view it as a welcome distraction from the 2020 news cycle,” said Monticello Field Manager Amber Denton Johnson in the release. “Even so, it was installed without authorization on public lands and the site is in a remote area without services for the large number of people who now want to see it. Whenever you visit public lands please follow Leave No Trace principles and federal and local laws and guidance.”

(Photos courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management) A piece of toilet paper or litter sticks out of the ground near the Utah "obelisk" — which disappeared Friday. The BLM said visitors to the site left human waste behind.

The obelisk has been there since at least 2016, according to Google satellite images. And so far, no one has claimed to be its creator or claimed to have removed it.

(Zak Podmore | The Salt Lake Tribune) Sergio Valencia (left), Michelle Neice, Kaitlin Laski and Courtlan Gordan, four filmmaker friends from Los Angeles, drove through the night Friday to visit Utah's mystery obelisk, but by the time they arrived it had vanished. November 28, 2020.