The latest effort to remove graffiti inside a popular Arizona cave will begin this weekend, Coronado National Forest officials said.

Volunteer Ben Adams, a student from Arizona State, uses a sandblaster to remove a graffiti tag inside Peppersauce Cave. The cleaning is part of a multiyear removal project.

Peppersauce Cave, in Oracle, will be the site for graffiti removal by workers and volunteers from Aug. 10 to Aug. 12. The cleaning is part of a multi-year, multi-phase removal project.

Forest officials say the cave receives around 15,000 visitors per year, making it the "most heavily visited undeveloped cave in Arizona."

It is one of the few caves in Arizona where visitors can wander day and night. But it has led to a large amount of graffiti being discovered.

Hundreds of tags have been removed from cave walls this year alone, including 300 in June, officials said in a news release.

This is how one area of Peppersauce Cave looked before a restoration team got to work on Feb. 10.

"While many cavers enjoy responsible recreational spelunking, others leave behind graffiti and trash," the news release said.

The project is led by Central Arizona Grotto, a cave-conservation group which has worked to clean caves since 2001.

But the ultimate goal to remove all graffiti tags is not an easy task.

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Workers will use high-pressure hoses, sand blasters and bristle brushes to remove tags. It can take an hour to remove just one tag by hand scrubbing.

From left, Devra Heyer, Sarah Truebe and Nicole Davis use brushes to scraps away graffiti tags that have been treated with biodegradable solvent as volunteers help with a multi-year, multi-phase graffiti removal project led by Central Arizona Grotto in Peppersauce Cave on the northside of the Santa Catalina mountains on April 14, 2018, in Oracle, Ariz.

To encourage responsible cave conservation ethics, forest officials offer the following tips — move carefully to avoid damaging the cave; remove all items brought in; leave natural or historic features inside; avoid disturbing wildlife; and report defacing or artifact theft from caves.

Visitors can report to Coronado National Forest officials by calling the ranger district.

Contact Star reporter Shaq Davis at 573-4218 or

On Twitter: @ShaqDavis1


Shaq is a public safety reporter and the Road Runner columnist, keeping readers up to date on transportation news. In 2017, he started as an apprentice and later worked part-time until graduating from the UA and being offered a full-time position in 2018.