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Rock Stacking and Rock Throwing

Carefully constructed stacks of rocks along trails, sometimes called cairns, have been important wayfinding tools for hundreds of years, especially in areas where installing signposts isn’t feasible. Cairns that exist for wayfinding are official trail signage and should not be tampered with. These rock cairns are specifically constructed to be self-draining, and any tampering (such as adding or removing rocks) can impact their effectiveness. Rock stacks made by individuals for fun or to express artistic creativity can harm the environment. Visitors should not stack, gather, throw, or otherwise purposely disturb rocks.

There are both ecological and social impacts of moving rocks. Any time a rock is moved, insects, plants and animals can be forced from their hiding places and homes, making them vulnerable to predators and other inadvertent human impacts. Disturbance of rocks can also remove attached organisms like lichens and algae, which serve important roles like filtering pollutants from the air.

Moving rocks can also lead to erosion. Removing rocks from their current resting place generates a faster erosion rate of the surrounding sand, sediment, and soils. An embedded rock helps to hold soils in place, locking the surface and helping to drain excess water effectively, and can even generate new plant life. When these rocks are removed from their natural resting place, the soil is also released, increasing the erosion rate in a given location.

The visual impacts of human disturbance affect the experience of other visitors. These disturbances take away from what is natural and serve as a reminder that visitors are not alone, which can be contrary to the reason someone visits public lands in the first place. People enjoying the outdoors are not always looking for a reminder that other people frequent the area and are looking to escape crowds and perhaps seek solitude.

No one may collect rocks, minerals or fossil materials on state natural areas, state wild rivers, state parks, state trails, Havenwoods state forest preserve, state recreation areas or Point Beach or Kettle Moraine state forests.