The investigation continues, with police trying to determine whether other people were involved.
Although police reports indicate that a person interviewed at the site said vandals found a key to the cavern gates and destroyed natural features inside, Tarangle said those reports have yet to be confirmed, and parks officials insist they have no evidence the caverns were damaged.
From a distance, the entrance to the caverns resembles two large eyes on a massive rock. Their earliest inhabitants included a Pleistocene ground sloth that stumbled into the darkness 15,000 years ago and left claw marks on a wall. Later, the caverns were blackened with smoke from the fires of Chemehuevi Indians who used them for shelter, storage and ceremonial purposes for at least 500 years.
This week, Kevin Forrester, sector superintendent for the parks department, recalled memories of better times as he walked along a path to the visitors center.
"Look at it now," Forrester said with a sigh. "We've had to board up the windows and weld the doors shut.
"It's going to take a lot of money to bring this place back to life."