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The Ring - CCxA

Leave No Trace

The trouble with stacking stones and other outdoor pastimes

Text by Glyn Bowerman

This summer, I spent a weekend at Craigleith Provincial Park on Georgian Bay, Ontario. Its shoreline is made of shale, a lot of which contains aquatic fossils dating back to about 450 million years ago, which you can find littered around park without even digging.

But another feature of this kind of geology is it breaks off in small slabs and stones that are easily stackable. I witnessed quite a lot of these creations at Craigleith. It even makes for some great imagery—in addition to the natural beauty.

When you see rocks like this, you’re likely at least tempted to stack them. In fact, these man-made formations are part of many cultures, and carry various meanings: spiritual, practical (as a signpost, for instance), or just to say “I was here.” And it’s fun, like building a sandcastle.

Rock Stacking at Craigleith Provincial Park on the Georgian Bay. IMAGES/ Glyn Bowerman

The problem is, this pastime can have various effects on the ecosystem. It can expose larvae important to the food chain to the elements before they have a chance to develop, exacerbate erosion, et cetera. It’s problem many park wardens and environmentalists bemoan. The Ontario Parks blog reminds us of the old camping adage to “leave no trace,” and recommends against rock stacking, leaving painted rocks, and building wood forts:

“When we protect park habitat, all visitors (and the many species that live in parks) can enjoy the views and experiences that are provided by healthy ecosystems. Which is the reason most of us want to spend time in nature in the first place!” So, while it may be a creative, meditative way to spend a day on the beach, and it makes for good social media content, it’s best to leave these stones unturned.

BIO/ Glyn Bowerman is Ground Magazine editor and host of the Spacing Radio podcast.