Rock Formations Vulnerable to Vandals and the Elements

If Nature doesn't erode them or cause them to collapse, thoughtless people seem eager to help.

A disturbing drone video shot last week shows a group of people pushing over the Duckbill Rock, an sandstone formation in Cape Kiwanda along the Oregon Coast.

In an interview with Oregon TV station KATU, David Kalas, who shot the video, said the vandals told him that they destroyed the formation because a friend of theirs had broken his leg on it. Oregon State Police and state parks officials told the Portland Oregonian that they were reviewing the video, and that the perpetrators might face criminal charges in addition to citations and fines.

But the destruction of the iconic rock highlights an even bigger problem. Many comparable natural formations in parks across the nation are similarly fragile and vulnerable to human visitors who, for whatever reasons, decide to destroy them.

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Back in 2013, for example, two men knocked over the Goblins, a 20-million-year-old formation at Goblin Valley State Park in Utah, because they thought it was dangerous to hikers. They eventually pleaded guilty to misdemeanor criminal charges and received probation and fines.

Other formations have been marred by graffiti artists. In June, a woman who pled guilty to defiling rock formations at seven national parks was banned from all 524 million acres of U.S. public lands and sentenced to 200 hours of community service, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Not all people who destroy rock formations are doing it intentionally. Mushroom Rock in California's Death Valley, seen below, is an example of a rock formation that's deteriorated badly over the years due to visitors climbing on it to take pictures.

The Arches National Park in Utah is filled with many potentially vulnerable formations, including the aptly-named Delicate Arch. Another formation such formation at the park is Balanced Rock (below).

Still more beautiful but delicate rock formations can be found at the Escalante-Grand Staircase National Monument, also in Utah. Perhaps the most spectacular are the so-called hoodoos -- precariously slender red, white and brown formations formed by boulders perched atop softer rocks, some of which are several stories in height (below).

The Bisti/De-Na-Zin Wilderness area in New Mexico is another place with scores of exotic formations.

Even without human interference, rock formations are sometimes destroyed by natural processes, such as erosion and fissures from freezing and thawing. One such iconic formation that disintegrated naturally was the Old Man of the Mountain in New Hampshire (below), which collapsed after a late-Spring snowfall in May 2003.