Leave No Trace - Leave What You Find - Part I

It is always amazing to find something natural, unique, or beautiful on the trail. The scope, shapes, colors, and variety of objects that can be found on our trails and in our Parks is truly staggering. There are always special objects - colorful rocks, artifacts from the past, or unique shapes - that really steal the show.

One of the great joys of being in our wild places is the discovery of these precious and beautiful objects. This joy is only preserved, maintaining the wonder of discovery for generations to come, when these wonderful objects are left for in place others to enjoy.

Heart shaped rock against a field of smaller rocks

The fourth principle of Leave No Trace is Leave What You Find. This is an important principle of the Leave No Trace ethics and the key to maintaining the beauty of our wilderness environments. 

We are exploring this principle throughout the month of October. 


Why Is this Important?

We implore you to remember that our wilderness spaces and Public Lands are shared resources for everyone to enjoy. The resources and objects found within these spaces do not belong to any one person. These areas, and the unique objects within them, belong to us all.

It is the responsibility of all users of wilderness environments to respect the sanctity of these shared spaces. When it comes to special objects and resources found in these places the rule of thumb is this - Leave What You Find

But It’s Just a Rock! There are More!

We hear this all the time: “It’s just a rock! There are so many rocks! It won’t make a difference if I take one home. No one will even notice!”

This is an easy belief to fall into and any easy excuse for taking home ‘souvenirs’ from outdoor adventures. We understand that some natural artifacts - from obsidian stove to petrified wood to heart shaped rocks - are beautiful to behold. And, for some, they are also fun to collect as a memory of their time in that beautiful place.

A field of obsidian stones on brown volcanic soil.

We urge you to consider the potential impact if everyone believed that ‘just one rock’ won’t make a difference. Our National Parks, National Forests, and State Park lands see millions of visitors every single year. Could you imagine what would happen to the obsidian fields, petrified forests, fossil beds, and other irreplaceable resources if every visitor took ‘just one’? There would soon be nothing left for others to enjoy. This would be a global impact, and a loss for all, as a result of millions of tiny selfish acts.

It is also important to remember that these objects are not replaceable. There are no more obsidian stone fields, petrified trees, or heart shaped stones being produced in quantity. The removal of these objects for enjoyment at home, and the possibility of ending up in the garbage, means a potential loss of these objects for enjoyment by all. Forever.

This rule also covers historical artifacts including arrowheads, pottery, glass bottles, and other objects found in the wilderness environment and/or historical ruins. It is also illegal to remove any object from our National Parks.

As the old saying goes, leave only footprints and take only memories. Our precious natural areas and our grandchildren will thank you for it. And we will too! Thank you.

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