The Mysterious Rock People of Collinsville

Wow, what a cool surprise I found at the end of the currently-open portion of the bike trail, where it meets the Farmington line!

Wow, what a cool surprise I found at the end of the currently open portion of the bike trail, where it meets the Farmington line! 

It’s about 3 miles to that point, near as I can tell from the Greenway map, and I was doing an out-and-back run from my base camp at LaSalle’s.  This day happened to be one of the only rainless ones in recent memory, and because I’m training for a marathon, the distance was feeling easy. 

So, I was just cruising along, enjoying the greenery and the people-watching, and there they were:  rock people.  All over the place!  A family of them gathered at the beginning of the section.  Other individuals were lining the trail, back in the wooded area, along the river side, everywhere.  Some tall, some short, some that looked like recognizable characters--Poindexter or a penguin.  All were constructed of carefully balanced flat or round stones placed on top of each other Jenga™ style. 

There must have been plenty of loose stones left from the recent construction and paving.  A few summers ago I was paddling the Farmington and saw similar rock figures staged along the bank.  A woman was in the act of creating them.  Could this be the same artist?

In the woods or above tree line, rock cairns commonly mark the trail and turns along the way, but here in the Northeast they are usually artless cones of loose stone, that delight only when you’re truly lost and find one.  In Canada, they make them look more like actual people, with a longer stone placed sideways below the round head to look like strong shoulders or a pointing arm.  They call them inukshuks, but a girl from Canada once told me another name for them that I can’t seem to recall. 

In some parks out West, they have a different view altogether.  Instead of being considered a useful guide for hikers or an art form, cairns of any type are shunned as marring a pristine wilderness experience, evidence of humans where there should be none.  Although we can hardly claim a wilderness experience only steps from the nearest state road (and they did pave the thing), this portion of trail along the Farmington is only a couple of miles downstream from the nationally designated Wild & Scenic section of the river.  To me those cairns were a nice treat that added to my experience in an already beautiful place. Keep on rocking!


Ugh!!!  I took a trip back to the same spot yesterday to take some photos to go with this story, and someone had demolished most of them.  It was the crumbled family I saw first, reduced to rubble.  I rebuilt one from memory, but I’m no artist, and it wasn’t the same.  

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Amanda Nagurney May 27, 2011 at 02:09 AM
Cool article, Julie - I can't wait to read more!
Corey Lynn Tucker June 11, 2011 at 03:11 PM
i have a friend that likes to do this. i wonder if it was her. i often like to build these impermanent structures while at the beach or by a body of water somewhere. it's very zen.
David Tripp Jr June 18, 2011 at 02:53 PM
Nice article. Finding the creators is like spotting "Bigfoot" or a Connecticut Mountain Lion.


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