Leave no trace

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints!”  — Si’ahl (Seattle), leader of the Suquamish and Duwamish tribes

Beginning with my very first adventures out in nature, I’ve always been taught to leave no trace.  And so I was startled and then a little sad when I saw these along Gator Creek Road in the Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge about a week ago.

Rock stacksRock stacks

I’ve seen rock stacks (or rock cairns) before, just not in MINWR.  I guess I also noticed that stacking rocks (and posting photos of them on social media) has become a thing.  People shouldn’t do this anywhere, and when they start doing it in one of my favorite places, it’s time to speak up.

I looked through my image archives for another photo from near the same spot and found this one from back in 2013 that I never processed or posted before. It’s looking in a different direction, and it shows rocks where they should be.  It’s worth a click to view a larger version.

Gator Creek panoGator Creek pano

There are of course, legitimate reasons for building rock cairns and different National Parks have different rules. See this NPS page: https://www.nps.gov/articles/rockcairns.htm.  However, it’s always wrong to tamper, add to, or build unauthorized cairns in national parks.

I couldn’t find anywhere on-line that specifically says rock stacking is prohibited at MINWR.  Even if it’s not against the rules – it’s still ethically, morally, and environmentally wrong.  And it’s rude and selfish.  Don’t do it.

Always follow the Leave No Trace guidelines when you’re out enjoying nature. Always.

“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”  — Aldo Leopold, American ecologist and environmentalist

Sorry for the rant today.  The longer I thought about this, the more it bothered me.

Thanks for stopping by and reading my blog. Now – go make some photos, but don’t stack any rocks!

©2020, Ed Rosack. All rights reserved

14 thoughts on “Leave no trace

  1. Those are very timely and thoughtful words, Ed. They make an important point, eloquently.
    I do hope the world pays attention!

  2. The same was happening to Hawaii where thy would get the white bleached coral ‘rocks’ and line or stack them against the jet black lava. Fortunately with the same type of local activism, it has disappeared for the most part. You still may see a few attempts to proclaim one’s love for someone, the stacking has disappeared. It was almost too much along the highway on the Big Island, but saw ‘none’ this past October. Mary Kate may have noticed they have pretty much been eliminated as well on Maui.

  3. Thank you, my friend. I love this post. It is right and good information. I think some folks have not been taught to respect nature and it’s beauty. Anything we can do to help conservation is so important. A little raving is a good thing…I appreciate it!

  4. Many folks may not understand why some of us think “rock stacking” is worthy of even talking about. After all, it’s just a bunch of rocks, right?

    In some areas (think, wilderness), rock cairns can mark a trail. Don’t mess with these markers – it could cost a life.

    As you point out, Ed, stacking seems to have become a “social media” fad. Two points:

    – Not all of us think those stacks are cute or artsy.

    – Moving rocks from where nature placed them could result in serious erosion or other negative situations.

    Although the MINWR rules don’t specifically address rock stacking, they do state “all natural resources are protected”. A rock is a natural resource.

    Just admire the beauty of nature as it is. Resist the urge to remodel until you get home.

    (That Gator Creek photograph sure is nice!)

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