Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
Photos by Lauren Jo Sypniewski

As I winded my way through the gorge towards Little Jamaica, I drove with high expectations. In fact, I had just hyped the little oasis to an editor in hopes of highlighting the local hideaway for St. George Magazine.

Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
The filtered version of Little Jamaica

I’d heard beautiful stories and scoped out awe-inspiring photos online, and yet I’d still never been to Little Jamaica — the waterfall and pool just off Interstate 15 between St. George and Mesquite, just south of the gorge.

Needless to say, I was excited. I’d even put it on my St. George bucket list: a list of places I wanted to see before I said “adios” to the Southern Utah desert. I had told others, especially St. George locals, about my list and the various items on it. A surprisingly high percentage had never heard of Little Jamaica, and many had never been there. So I naturally thought this retreat would be a wonderful place to feature, and hence my mention of it to St. George Magazine editor Shelley Smith.

Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
The filtered version of Little Jamaica

After leaving the gorge, I took a right on the Desert Springs exit, crossed beneath the expressway, and drove parallel to the highway before running into a dirt parking lot. I parked, joining the number of other cars already in the lot. A gap in the barbed wire fence easily directed the path down to Little Jamaica’s pool and falls.

I wanted so desperately to make a great story out of this mini-trip. I left this bucket list item for last, and I wanted to make sure I went out with a bang. Gripping my camera, I made my sprightly way down the path, ready to snap dozens of great photos. My step lost its sprightly gait as soon as I stood before the barbed wire fencing. Heaps of trash piled against the posts, spilling out onto the path: styrofoam coolers, cardboard beer cases, empty two-liters, beer cans, glass bottles, pizza boxes, and the list continues.

Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
Families turn a blind eye to the empty beer cans and a dirty diaper to the right

And still, my longing to make this a momentous trip caused me to ignore the four-foot pile of trash and to, instead, make my way down the path. I took photos as I went, but they were carefully posed as I tried to crop out the freeway and as I moved cups and wrappers and cans away from the path. I gathered grass and flowers with one hand and took the photo with the other one, hoping the flora would cover the offenses.

And suddenly the question hit me: Why was I trying so hard to hide the truth? My hands were an Instagram filter, clouding the true story of this Southern Utah “gem,” an “oasis” that wasn’t even located in Southern Utah at all.

Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
Trash at the trailhead of Little Jamaica, illustrating the work of the “half-way” citizens

For being 6 o’clock in the evening on a weekday, there were a good number of people — perhaps 30— some in the Virgin River, a handful cruising down the side of the waterfall, others lounging along the manmade barricade that held the water from the main falls. Kids, teenagers, babies, friends, families — all coming to Little Jamaica for relief from the summer heat and to bask in nature’s simple pleasures. All ignoring the filth around them and possibly contributing to it as well.

Like all who believe in no dumping, I cannot fathom how people refuse to take out what they bring in with them. On top of that (more often than not) these things weigh less on the outbound journey, so their removal should be even more of a no-brainer. But, no. Popped and deflated volleyballs; ripped camping chairs thrown into the river; the classic beer bottles and cans (glass broken, ready to cut into wet, bare feet); not one, not two, but three dirty diapers; fast-food wrappers.

Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
Food wrappers off the trail at Little Jamaica; human feces wrapped in napkin

The trash at the trailhead stood as a reminder that people will only go so far. They are “half-way” citizens: decent enough to pick up Little Jamaica proper, only to drop the trash on the outskirts. It’s like wiping a booger on someone else’s pants when you were the one who had to go and pick your nose in the first place — you don’t care as long as you can make it someone else’s problem.

Even worse than the sight, though, was the smell — putrid, rotting, dirty, permeating the air and reminding everyone that they couldn’t escape the filth that has collected. I had wanted to swim. Now, I wouldn’t even take my clothes off to reveal my swimsuit. I felt gross even removing my flip-flops.

Little Jamaica, Southern Utah, St. George, trash, filth
Empty cups in the reeds; trash off the side of the path

And here were families, trying to enjoy a night away from home, clearly more desperate than me to get the most out of their trip because they continued to ignore the trash around them.

How long are we going to ignore it? How long are we going to allow our children and our neighbors and ourselves to literally swim in the filth that we leave behind? How long are we going to rationalize to ourselves that it is okay to dump and ditch, to take advantage of the natural earth, to leave behind trash and filth, to tarnish an otherwise beautiful oasis? When are we going to restore Little Jamaica to its namesake?

 

RELATED ARTICLES

Southern Utah and coffee: the lack of a third place

The Pioneer Park tragedy could have been avoided

The devil with Bears Ears

29 COMMENTS

  1. I live in the AZ Strip, where “Southern Utah’s Little Jamaica” is actually located. Most of the locals quit going there once the word and maps to get there got out. It’s a shame that what use to be a hidden little gem is now a dumping ground for all of our neighbors from up North. Once last year a bunch of the locals got together and cleaned it up only to have it trashed again by the end of the weekend.
    Thanks for the article and at least making people aware!

    • Don’t blame all the trash on those from up North. We have taken visitor to see it and I recognize many people from Mesquite using LJ. People not only leave trash they will destroy the vegetation so there is more room for there BBQ’s and Parties.

  2. Hope you hauled some trash out. Its easy to complain. My kids taught me to haul some out as long as its safe: no broken glass, metal or needles etc. Most people think its someone elses job.

  3. Us locals never go there because people from st. George are always there making a mess. They never clean up after themselfs. They think they can just come here to party then leave and someone else is going to come to clean for them.

  4. It’s not the locals leaving the filth! And it’s not our job to clean up after these trashy out of towners! It was an amazing place that us locals built and it was never like this until these news sites invited everyone to come destroy it. Not to mention all of the obviously drunk people driving down our roads, tearing them up doing doughnuts and speeding, and all have out of state plates! We don’t mind sharing but this has gotten rediculous! We locals are not the “half citizens “!

  5. It wasn’t like that the last time I was there, but that was five years ago. It used to be really clean and pretty. Time changes everything, though.

  6. It’s funny that you wrote this! My husband and I went that afternoon after I spoke to you and we were both horrified with what we found. It had been many years since I’d been there, but only a couple since David had, and neither of us were prepared for what we found. I took many photos that day and considered writing something on it, but didn’t know where I would submit it so it fell to the wayside.
    Anyhow, I’m so glad you brought awareness to this awfulness. Personally, I’d rather see it cleaned and closed up than have it left to the derelicts and dump trucks that currently use the area. And I’m sorry that you saw it in this awful trash dump status. It’s an amazingly beautiful place when the space is respected.

  7. It baffles me how anyone would want to just throw stuff on the ground even if they plan to pick it up it is still trash on the ground until they do. I have had small camp outs all over Utah and always end up with a huge pile of trash that was left by others.

  8. I was camping in Vermont this summer and took a 22 mile hike over a mountain on a snowmobile trail and did not see one piece of garbage. They have a 10 cent crv so they never have cans or bottles left anywhere. Get a clue Utah.

  9. As a resident of Beaver Dam, this article was a real eye opener and made us feel both sad and angry. We haven’t been there for several years. What a disgrace that some people have no respect for the beauty that surrounds us, or for other people.

  10. Curious who owns or manages (or is supposed to) this property? Is it privately owned? County-owned? State? BLM? Would love to put some pressure on them to do something.

    • Amen. The only way this problem is to be solved is for the government entity in charge convert the place to a park: install trash cans, restrooms, put up signs reminding people to respect the land and so on. The only other solution I can think of is some kind of volunteer group take over the maintenance of the place but, based on the comments above, that ain’t going to happen.

    • It is privately owned and the owner is nice enough to let people go down there but now they’re going to close it again because of all the Trashy people

  11. Once a webcast surfaced LJ became flooded with people from UTAH who trashed it. The locals did not do this. People from Utah with your 20 kids throwing trash everywhere. The Utah Mormon Me First attitude. Want to make it cleaner? KEEP OUT UTARDS!!

    • Bah ha ha ha! Don’t forget, it needs to be free cause that’s all they can afford with 20 kids. And I’m from Utah! True story!

  12. Too many people are slobs! There I said it! If you travel anywhere in this country you will see piles of trash that people assume will just disappear on its own. I go to the lower Enterprise Reservoir Dam on a regular basis. I am shocked at the discarded glass beer bottles and the underwear, shoes, socks and swim trunks strewn on the ground every time I am there. If I pick up what I see it seems to re-generate before the next time I’m up there. Come on people! If someone did that in your front yard you would be up in arms. And the vandalism is ridiculous! The dams and the equipment necessary to keep the water system running are privately owned. The stockholders spend a lot of money to be able to irrigate their farms. This is the second year that they have chosen to not use the limited amount of water that is in the reservoirs. The few stockholders who rely on the reservoir water for watering stock are the only ones drawing a small amount of water out this year. Why would people that pay a lot of money in water assessments every year not use the water? Because they want to allow the fishermen and boaters to be able to enjoy the reservoirs. But if the vandalism and trash keep up they might change their mind. The Forest Service and the Division of Wildlife Resources also have a stake in the area. They could very well decide that things have to change if the situation does not change. A few people can make it hard on many people. So if you pack it in please pack it out! And the signs, out buildings and other things that you see in the area are not there for target practice. Thanks!

  13. Seriously! I went last year with my Mother. I was ranting and raving about the awesomeness based on my experience 2 years prior. People are DISGUSTING. Dirty open diapers blanketed the grassy areas, trash EVERYWHERE. If I were a local I’d be very frustrated as I’m quite confident it’s visitor’s who are too lazy to clean up after themselves. Here is my reasons as to why it’s not the locals 1. It was heavenly 2 years ago and locals had been going then. 2. Locals tend to take pride in hometown gems. 3. Visitors tend to have the “tourist” mentality, and think it’s their right to do as they wish.

  14. If St. George would allow a water park to be built so we would have somewhere fun to go with our family’s instead of these splashpads that they build to try to pacify us, we would all have somewhere fun to go to stay cool. They spent millions on a new airport that nobody uses because it’s cheaper to fly out of Vegas. LETS GET A WATERPARK PEOPLE!

  15. The comments disappoint me for categorizing and shaming cultures. As a Utah woman I went to little Jamaica a few weeks ago, discourage about the lack of respect people have for our earth. As we departed we brought back our garbage along with garbage from our trail walk we found. It isn’t the culture or where people are from that litter. It’s people who disobey their conscience of disgarding their trash in the proper place. It’s people who feel superior and feel that it is someone else’s responsibility to clean up after them.

  16. This is so accurate. We took our family a few weeks ago and didn’t even make it to the pool. We were so disgusted by the trash and saw several homeless people using it as a bathing pond. We turned around and left.

  17. It is private owned land the public have no concern for the fact it is on private property. They have no right to trespass but trying to keep them out is such a problem. Than the radio and news paper tell the world about it with no regard to the owner of this private property. It is sad that the public has no respect for private property!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  18. I have recently returned to live in Southern Utah and Northern Arizona after spending years in Alaska, a place where people care about their home. Things have changed tremendously since then. Everywhere i go places that used to be pristine, like Little Jamaica, the Enterprise Dam, Quail Lake, Zion and countless other areas are as others have mentioned, littered with trash and junk, graffiti and vandalism. It’s really heartbreaking to see after yearning for years to move back here. It is a cultural issue that didn’t used to exist here and it’s got to be changed or there won’t be any point in living here anymore.

    The good news is based on the universal disgust everyone from all three states seem to share about the situation there are clearly a lot of people who have a common respect for our outdoors. I don’t know how this happened to my home while i was away but i don’t plan on accepting it as just being the way the world is now.

    Having lived so long in Alaska, a state 1,000 miles long it’s confusing to hear people from different towns so close together badmouth each other as if they lived on other sides of the ocean. The truth is we all live in the same place, the State lines are arbitrary (though the difference in laws are certainly not). People in Mesquite, Beaver Dam, St. George, Cedar City and even Caliente and Panaca live their lives on the same land and should find ways to have more in common than they do with the residents of Salt Lake or Las Vegas.

  19. Does anyone know the number of the person who owns Little Jamaica property or who monitors it? After visiting it and seeing the trash, my son would like to do an Eagle Scout Project and clean up the area. We have to get permission from the landowners first though. My email is cagraf@interact.ccsd.net.

Comments are closed.