Whether it's due to natural causes, drunken vandals, or former Boy Scout leaders who think they're saving lives, many of our ancient natural landmarks have taken a hit in the last century. Here are 10 of Mother Nature's best tourist attractions that are now lost to the ages.
1. OLD MAN OF THE MOUNTAIN // WHITE MOUNTAINS, NEW HAMPSHIRE
This famous face-shaped outcropping of rock (pictured above) and the way it was positioned on the side of the mountain once prompted Daniel Webster to write, "Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men."
The New Hampshire landmark is so iconic that it’s featured on the state quarter. Unfortunately, that’s the only place you’ll find it these days—the outcropping slid down the side of the mountain in 2003.
2. WASHINGTON SEQUOIA TREE // SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
At 254.7 feet tall, the Washington Tree in Sequoia National Park was once one of the largest single-stem trees in the world, second only to the sequoia known as General Sherman (274.9 feet). In 2003, the tree caught fire, reducing its height to about 229 feet and burning out much of the dead wood in the center. Two years later, the weakened tree collapsed under the weight of a snowstorm. Though it's still clinging to life, at a mere 115 feet, the Washington Tree is a shadow of its former self.
3. THE JEFFREY PINE // YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA
This tree is probably most famous from the photography of Ansel Adams and Carleton Watkins. We're lucky that they saw fit to record the gnarled pine for posterity, because the centuries-old tree fell to the ground in 2003. It's a wonder the tree stayed erect that long—it actually died during a drought in 1977, despite heroic efforts by Yosemite park rangers to save it by carrying buckets of water out to the remote location. After the tree fell over in 2003, the dead trunk was left there.
4. DUCKBILL // CAPE KIWANDA STATE NATURAL AREA, OREGON
When this 7-foot-tall rock formation bit the dust earlier this year, people first thought Mother Nature was responsible—and then a video surfaced. Shot by a park visitor who wanted to catch the act on video, the footage showed a group of vandals going into a roped-off area and purposely pushing the formation until it crashed to the ground. When confronted, the vandals said they were doing the world a favor—a friend of theirs had broken his leg on it.
5. JUMP-OFF JOE // NEWPORT, OREGON
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
This large rock formation, called a sea stack (a pillar of stacked stones caused by wave erosion), once dominated Nye Beach in Newport, Oregon. For most of the 1800s, it was impossible to get around the 100-foot-tall stack without jumping off the steep siding, which is why early settlers named it Jump-Off Joe. By the 1890s, erosion had created a small gap between the cliffs and the rock, and without the support of the cliffs, the arch collapsed in a severe storm in 1916. Today, there's barely anything left to photograph, let alone jump off.
6. WALL ARCH // ARCHES NATIONAL PARK, UTAH
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
Some time during the night of August 4, 2008, Wall Arch, a more than 30-foot-tall and 70-foot-wide formation in Arches National Park, collapsed. A survey of the site showed obvious stress fractures in the remaining part of the structure, so no foul play was suspected.
The National Park Service issued a statement that said, "All arches are but temporary features and all will eventually succumb to the forces of gravity and erosion. While the geologic forces that created the arches are still very much underway, in human terms it’s rare to observe such dramatic changes."
7. EL DEDO DE DIOS — "GOD'S FINGER" // CANARY ISLANDS, SPAIN
This basalt sea stack is located near Gran Canaria, one of the Canary Islands—and while the base is still there, it once included a spindly stone that vaguely resembled a finger sticking up from a closed fist. At least, it did until November 2005, when Tropical Storm Delta broke the finger off like a vengeful mobster.
8. TWELVE APOSTLES // PORT CAMPBELL NATIONAL PARK, VICTORIA, AUSTRALIA
Seems like 2005 was a rough year for ocean-based landmarks. That July, one of Australia's "Twelve Apostles," nine limestone monoliths off the southwest coast of Victoria, took a tumble into the ocean. The rock pillar, which took 20 million years to form, crumbled away into the water right before the very eyes of some tourists photographing the formation. (The one that collapsed is the one in the foreground of the picture above.)
9. EYE OF THE NEEDLE // NEAR FORT BENTON, MONTANA
When park rangers investigated the collapse of this arch formation over Memorial Day 1997, they discovered beer bottles, footprints and trash. And while that's definitely a littering citation, it doesn't necessarily mean that vandals purposely trashed the arch. When damage to several other nearby sandstone structures was discovered, however, officials concluded that someone had purposely destroyed the 10,000+ year-old monument. Yet the perpetrators have never been caught, leading some to believe that the collapse was simply due to natural erosion.
10. A "GOBLIN" SANDSTONE FORMATION // GOBLIN VALLEY STATE PARK, UTAH
In 2013, two former Boy Scout leaders pushed over a rock formation that had been there since the Jurassic Period. The men believed the rock, known as a "Goblin," posed a threat to park visitors. "One gust of wind and a family's dead," one of the men later said. They were both charged with third-degree felonies and later reached plea deals that required them to pay $925 in court costs, $1500 for the investigation, and an undisclosed amount to erect signs around the park warning visitors not to vandalize anything.
A version of this post originally ran in 2009.