July 16, 2018

The End of A Tradition That’s Time Has Come

History. Stone Stacking in Sideling Hill Creek - Nov. 2014.
History. Stone Stacking in Sideling Hill Creek - Nov. 2014.

Some attentive visitors to Drum ’N’ Splash 2018 might have spotted a small notice at the end of the event program –

About Stone Stacking in the River – We are asking that this once time honored and playful Drum ‘N’ Splash and Four Quarters tradition be allowed to slip into history and legend. We have discovered that the practice is destructive to the creek’s ecosystem and all the wee things that live there. It’s Time to Stop.”

Yes, Something has changed in the creek, and for the better.

Stone Stacking in previous years was a legit Scheduled Program Item at Drum ’N’ Splash. Over the years we’ve seen our horseshoe of Sidling Hill Creek decorated and adorned with fanciful and playful stone stacks and impromptu sculptures. Members, guests and visitors have participated in this improptu ritual as far back as we been splashing in the creek, not just at Drum ’N’ Splash. We felt it was our Tribe and visitors’ expression of creativity and leaving of a harmless and temporary mark on the land, as opposed to the intrusive graffiti that blights many of our national parks and wild spaces.

So imagine our chagrin. We’ve since learned some things abut what this does to the creek and the things that live there.

“These temporary natural installations may be an expression of patience and balance to the ego of the builder, but to some naturalists who practice “Leave No Trace” ethics, it is often seen as nothing more than evidence left behind that the environment was disturbed by a human intrusion, natural graffiti, and vandalism of habitat. These disturbances and geological games of Jenga leave behind more than just footprints, and can be potentially damaging to the life cycles of organisms connected to the river rock.

“Beyond the visual disturbance of natural environments, each rock in a stream is blooming with life. Everything from aquatic plants to micro-organisms are attached to those rocks. They also create habitat for crustaceans and nymphs. Crevices in the rocks hold eggs in salmon redds to be fertilized, supporting those eggs until they grow into fry and begin feeding off the very critters that were hatching off of and crawling around those same rocks. You could be lifting the roof off the home of a crawfish, or disturbing the cradle for the future generations of already dwindling salmon runs. Removing rocks from fragile stream habitats is essentially the equivalent to removing bricks from someone else’s home while raiding their refrigerator and food pantry.”

Randal Bonner, Rock Stacking, or ‘Natural Graffitti,’ and Its Ecological Impact, WideOpenSpaces.

In everything we do at Four Quarters, we try to balance the needs and desires of our Members, guests, and visitors with responsible stewardship of the land. But wherever possible we do try coexist with the creatures and ecosystems that we share The Land with. These are our relatives, after all, even the most humble dwellers of the Creek. They deserve to be treated with as much respect and kindness as we can muster. The creek is their home and they were there first. So we are putting an end to stone stacking in the creek. We have lovely pictures to preserve the empheral and haunting beauty of these fleeting artifacts. But the practice now becomes part of the history and memories of Four Quarters. It’s time to stop.

Kurt Griffith, July 2018