Removing rocks from a national park

I recently returned from a hiking trip through some of the Southwest national parks. On several occasions I encountered warnings that it’s a felony to remove rocks (or stones) from a national park.

I’m wondering how this law is enforced. They certainly don’t have the personnel to stand around watching people. And if someone is seen putting a stone in his pocket, he can’t be accused of anything till he actually leaves the park with it. And there’s no one at the exit, checking people’s cars and luggage. And even a baggage inspector at an airport wouldn’t be able to verify where a stone is from.

So is this warning only meant as a deterrent, or is anybody ever actually found guilty of this crime?

In most places they are not so much worried about people making off with stones they can slip into their pockets, but rather people blasting out whole formations and hauling them out in a pickup truck. And that they would probably notice.

However, in some places many people each picking up a few small rocks can have an impact on the character or quality of a site, such as a place where there might be petrified wood, fossils, or obsidian flakes. While it’s unlikely someone would be caught for smuggling out a rock in their pocket, you should refrain from doing so to preserve the site for everyone.

That could vary with location but tend to be true in most places. In some parks going off the trail to grab rocks is a crime in itself.

If they see you pocketing rocks or anything else they don’t approve of they can ask you to leave which would be a deterent for most people that go to said parks.

I think most posted rules at public parks tend to be deterants more then anything else. It’s sad that they have to post half the signs the do. I hate to see parks littered with no littering signs.

It isn’t necessarily strictly enforced; not all laws/rules are, but that doesn’t mean they are less real.

In some places, the rule is expressed as an absolute (i.e. “do not remove rocks”) simply because it would be impossible to determine a reasonable ‘fair use’ level, or that the authorities in question do not want a precedent set. Removal of gravel from Chesil Beach (Dorset, UK) is prohibited; what they’re trying to prevent is the wholesale plundering of the attractive pea shingle, but it would be no good if the guy stopped for removing a truckload was able to point at another guy who was unimpeded in removing a wheelbarrowload or a bucketfull - so you’re just prohibited from removing stones, end of story.

I suppose it would depends on how the law is written exactly. When I heard about similar regulations over here, it was implemented in order to protect specific geological formations that a lot amateur geologists would otherwise happily hammer out by personnal interest or for resale, and in one case rocks of archeological interest (many relatively small stones in some place having glyphs engraved on them). So it may be the case that merely picking up the stone at the first place is forbidden, and that they actually keep a eye on the areas they’re trying to protect (but couldn’t care less if for some reason a visitor picked up a random stone at some random spot, which would be unlikely anyway). For instance, are you sure that what is forbidden is to remove the stones from the park, or simply to remove them from the place, bedrock, etc… they belong to (possibly using tools)?

When I visited the Petrified Forest National Park a many years ago, there were plenty of signs informing visitors that they could acquire pieces of petrified wood in the gift shop, and imploring them not to do any “logging” for themselves.

Once you reached the gift shop, they had a large bin containing bits of petrified wood from which customers could choose a small number of freebies. Nearby was a bulletin board displaying letters from remorseful visitors who had yielded to temptation and carried off pieces of the park, then, tormented by guilt, sent them back. One or two testified to nonstop encounters with bad luck since the date of their “acquisition.”

When I was at the Grand Canyon last year, there were signs forbidding you from taking samples. The idea is that it might degrade the experience from others. (I reluctantly threw back a piece of copper-bearing ore that I had picked up.)

It’s a surreal experience to be standing in thousands of square miles of amazing scenery caused by the ravages of erosion over millions of years and being told that the pebble that you carry away will make a significant or even perceptible difference to future visitors.

Supposedly, the volcano god 9Pele) punished those who steal rocks. is this an urban legend? I’ve heard the same thing -people mail back the rocks because they feel they have been cursed. Anyone have a personal experience? i stoke a rock once 9from Mt. Washington-it was a pebble about 1/4’ square-will i be punished?

Well, no point in my visiting the park now. You changed it. It’s not authentic now.

That said, I visited Mt St Helens a few years back with a bunch of geology undergrad friends, and a few specimens were brought back home. There was a USGS guy with us all the time, and our professor made sure everything was on the level, checking with him whenever we wanted anything. It was for a school collection, though, so I don’t know if that made any difference.

As I recall the story is a modern invention encouraged by Park Rangers.

I think you’ll be fine.

I’ve never heard of a curse on Mt. Washington rocks, so I guess you’re safe. As for the famous Hawaiian curse, even the normally cynical Snopes isn’t willing to dismiss the curse, so I’d steer clear of lava rocks if I were you.

This is simply the application of the backpacker’s motto, “Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but pictures.” Nature lovers know that the only way to preserve nature is to preserve it absolutely. When hiking you are expected to pack out everything you pack in, down to burnt matchsticks. Unfortunately a lot of people just don’t get it so they have to post threatening signs as reminders.

The Grand Canyon has 4.7 million visitors a year. If every visitor took one rock, and left one gum wrapper, the Grand Canyon would not be quite so nice to visit. The idea is that every visitor has the right to see the Grand Canyon as it would look as if they were the first visitor, and the responsibility to leave it the way they found it.

He wasn’t stealing pea shingle, he was stealing wheelbarrows. :smiley:

They had to chain down the roofs so people woudn’t steal them. Now because of you next time I go every pebble will be chained in place.

In Haleakala National Park on Maui, they tell you that the volcano goddess Pele will put a curse on you if you steal rocks from the volcano. I don’t know if this is real Hawaiian legend, or if they just tell you this as a discouragment. One of the rangers showed us a box of rocks that people had stolen and returned because when they got home, bad things started to happen to them & they thought it would be prudent not to piss Pele off any more than they already had.

So, no…I don’t think they most likely prosecute people over this kind of thing, but they do like to find ways to discourage it.

On my way out to see the Lae’apuki lava flow on the Big Island (last year, a few months before the delta collapsed), I was climbing on the rocks, put my hand in the wrong place, and got a sliver of 'a’a in the heel of my right hand. A small part of it is still there, quite visible below the skin, so technically I removed a small rock from the island. My luck has not been noticably better or worse over the past year, although perhaps Pele makes exceptions for removals that it would take minor surgery to rectify.

If you read carefully, you’ll notice that Snopes isn’t actually confirming the curse itself, but the fact that some people believe in it enough to send the rocks back. Which is much more plausible.

Hmph. This is the first I’ve heard of this. I took a small pebble of lava from a beach in Kaua’i as a souvenir. I’ve had it a year, and this has been a year of relatively good luck for me.

If things start to go all ahoo, I’ll post back and let y’all know.

I vaguely remember there was a national, or maybe state, park that was eventually closed because the large bed of interesting rocks was completely removed by visitors. Anyone remember the details?

It’s probably not the one you’re thinking of, but there is a type of rock formation/habitat called Limestone Pavement, which in the UK has suffered extensive damage in the past from commercial extraction and private collection; there are laws in place to protect it and I believe there are areas where access is prohibited or restricted, as well as other areas which are no longer visitor attractions because the limestone blocks have been entirely lost.

Just in case it matters…Pele is a goddess.

There were many stories told about people who took lava rocks from the islands returning them because of perceived bad luck. However, in Hamuama Bay it is illegal to remove anything - sand, rocks, coral, fish, etc. from the park. They don’t check to see if you have washed all the sand off of your feet, but they are watchful about what people put in their bags or take out of the water. The cove is a nature preserve and the fish know it. There’s nothing like standing in less than three feet of water and having a two or three foot fish come up and start nibbling on you, begging for food.