What happens when nature goes viral?

Published by Darron Toy on

This is Horseshoe Bend. It’s a stunning view of a U-turn in the
Colorado River near the border of Arizona and Utah. In the early 90s, this spot was a hidden gem
— accessible by an unmarked dirt trail off the side of the highway. Locals described it as “nearly empty”
— and that “hardly anybody knew about it.” But over the years, its popularity grew: first
slowly… … and then suddenly. Until it became this. In this past this used to be that this place would get maybe a few thousand visitors every single year. Now, that number is more like 1.5 million. And it keeps growing. That change didn’t happen because of any
big marketing push. It happened because of geotagged pictures
like these. Digital popularity is physically changing
the landscape. This place — and other public lands like
it — are trying to adjust. Social media — I believe — was the
main trigger. That explosion — just — has been overwhelming. You can see that social media explosion when
you look at the rate of Google searches for Horseshoe Bend. But it isn’t the only previously-hidden spot
that’s become internet famous. Similar increases have happened at Devil’s
Bathtub, a swimming hole in Virginia… … Kanarraville Falls, a waterfall trail
in Utah… … and Vance Creek Bridge, an old railroad
overpass in Washington. So why are these places getting so much attention? For outdoor photographers searching for the
perfect shot, Instagram made things easy: The app’s interface put geotagging — the
practice of attaching location data to a picture — front and center. And if a hidden spot didn’t already have
a location tag available, anyone could create one. These Instagram hotspots were often located
either just outside protected lands, or far off the beaten path. So as America’s National Parks became more
popular than ever, these places started getting National
Park-level crowds without having National Park-level infrastructure. Federally protected areas require a ton of
planning and work to keep people and the environment safe. There wasn’t a developed trail here. There weren’t any restroom facilities. There was no railing. It was an undeveloped site. Without that infrastructure, the natural landscape
can be damaged — and people following geotagging trends are at risk of injury or death. At Conundrum Hot Springs in Colorado, visitors
disturbed wildlife, cut down trees for firewood, and left behind an overwhelming amount of
human waste. And at Kaaterskill Falls in New York, at least
four people have died while taking or posing for pictures. So at Horseshoe Bend, trail designers are
getting to work. The park service and the city of Page are
creating over 400 parking spaces, a welcome center, bathrooms, a viewing deck with safety
railings, and laser-equipped signs to count attendance. And they’re building a new ADA-compliant
trail, lined with limestone to protect the surrounding environment and reinforced with
magnesium chloride to keep gravel in place. Throughout the trail, all the improvements
that we’re doing are aimed at creating as natural an environment as possible. It’s a difficult balance. You’re not going to stop people from going
to the rim’s edge and trying to capture that iconic photo. We don’t want to wall it off. So all we can do is implore that people be safe. For places like Kanarraville Falls in Utah,
that concern for safety extends to their residents, too. The town’s water comes from a spring near
the falls, where’s it’s piped to tanks near the canyon entrance. It used to be a local secret — but in 2016,
40,000 people hiked that trail, disturbing the water source and leaving debris behind. It shares so quick, and it gets out
there so fast, that people can look at it and say “Oh wow, look at that!” Then they tap on the photo, and it’ll tell
where it was from or where it was taken. Things like that, and people go wild over it. You can imagine what that does to
the canyon floor, the trail, the water — people in and out. We’ve just tried to take adequate measures
to try to work with the ecosystem, and not have it ruin our water source. Others are taking a different approach: there’s
now a growing movement in the nature photography scene against geotagging. So, in 1999 this organization called Leave
No Trace came up with a set of guidelines for people to use while they’re in the outdoors. These are things like don’t leave trash
behind, don’t interfere with wildlife, leave everything as it was when you saw it. And now in 2018 they’ve announced that they’re
encouraging people not to geotag photos while they’re in nature. We’ve always had the tendency to explore
— and sometimes be irresponsible in nature. Modern technology just amplifies those
urges. With so many natural wonders at our fingertips
today, it’s even more urgent that we treat them with respect and care — before it’s
too late. Hi there – thanks for watching The Goods,
and thanks to our sponsor, American Express. AmEx has a credit card feature that gives
you choices for how to make payments big or small called Pay It Plan It. Pay It helps you reduce your balance by
making small payments throughout the month. and Plan It can help you split purchases over
$100 up over time. You can check it out at americanexpress.com/payitplanit And thanks again to American Express. Their support made this series possible.


Vox · October 31, 2018 at 1:20 pm

Geotagging, Instagram pop-up experiences, scent… marketing? We're breaking it all down in The Goods, our new series on why we buy the things we buy: http://bit.ly/2zcJ2pC

Anthony Marquez · April 24, 2019 at 6:40 am

Oh its discount troye sivan again.

Brandon Terrazas · April 25, 2019 at 10:37 pm

Let em die , that’s natural selection

Berry Bluebird · April 29, 2019 at 6:37 pm

2 words.
Use the barbed wire to block off people from the areas that are fragile. I would be 100% in favor of seeing these dumb asses rip their flesh off because they just had to take a selfie where they don't belong.

Ryan Palizzi · May 1, 2019 at 1:10 am

Page local here. This is a serious problem and a fantastic video about

Glódís Auðunsdóttir · May 1, 2019 at 9:51 pm

This is currently a huge issue in iceland.

mricardo96 · May 2, 2019 at 7:26 am

I hate humans

beatjunkybg · May 7, 2019 at 10:18 am

It's so american how even a rock gets to have 450 parking spaces ASAP

Katrina J. · May 8, 2019 at 11:09 pm

can't believe a random Vox video I watched months ago helped me answer a free response question on the AP Environments exam. Thank you, Vox

Kevin Martinez · May 12, 2019 at 4:29 pm

Im not sure but I bet people will look at this video and say OMG we have to go there not OMG lets not travel so we dont damage the ecosystems

Corrall Hill · May 14, 2019 at 4:37 am

Maya beach in Thailand is the same 🙁 they had to close it

Communism is great, Capitalism is evil · May 14, 2019 at 1:30 pm

Why post it on Instagram on the first place

Malacki 655 · May 19, 2019 at 11:21 am

Why do humans have to ruin everything🤦🏾‍♂️

SupremeYT · May 19, 2019 at 11:50 pm

The Kaaterskill Falls incident I could really care less about those 4 deaths it's just natural selection at work

jbmp1390 · May 20, 2019 at 2:05 pm

Americans are the worst. We ruin literally everything we touch.

PlaylistDude · May 21, 2019 at 7:53 am

Ah daily dose of triggering hehexD

GLR · May 21, 2019 at 8:45 am

Social media is a marketing tool as well, that’s how you drive tourism dear Americans in the Intro

stephen deben · May 22, 2019 at 12:36 pm

Why does everyone want to get the exact same photo? Take your own pictures.

duolingo bird · May 22, 2019 at 1:19 pm

I live in arizona

K7RIE · May 22, 2019 at 2:44 pm

Idk how no one knows about it? I'm not from US and in elementary those places are all over our geography books.

djknucklez1 · May 22, 2019 at 5:58 pm

Social Media is the worst.

Oscar Karais · May 22, 2019 at 7:57 pm

People disgust me

FRISHR · May 25, 2019 at 3:14 pm

Columbus made America viral and Europeans invaded it.

Susanti Sambasri · May 25, 2019 at 7:39 pm

God make something
SoMe mOOnkeYs WiTh CHocO BAr : iTs AMMmzzzzing

San Ghuloom · May 26, 2019 at 5:33 am

Do you believe that the human being is like a virus? I remember what Agent Smith told Neo (Keanu Reeves) in the Matrix movie. He said: I'd like to share a revelation that I've had during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you're not actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.

atfinn · May 26, 2019 at 5:39 pm

If you have a camera on a stick you suck.

jakarta gamer · May 27, 2019 at 2:59 am

people are so dumb
risking your life for just fame?
what is this?
people risking for goodness now that's just great
i am really mad at this, you do this for things that didn't even exist

people like mr.beast has it, popular but still have goodness in his heart

zeitGGeist · May 27, 2019 at 7:15 pm


Al Tahir · May 30, 2019 at 8:09 am

"Take only photos, leave only footprints"? more like "Don't take photos or walk anywhere (you'll errode everything)"

Haha irony I know

Luke p · May 31, 2019 at 1:09 am

FALSE Content!!! Devil's washtub is in Michigan not Virginia

darkespeon64 · June 4, 2019 at 7:04 am

good job. you made it worst by telling more people like me who didnt know about the location but it

אלון סיניה *Oak Synia* · June 4, 2019 at 9:27 am

Just use Google maps bruh

T N · June 4, 2019 at 1:16 pm

First thing the government should do that, "taking photos are prohibited ".
You just go there andenjoy the nature but dont spoil it.

Royce Hogan · June 5, 2019 at 12:04 pm

I recently visited Horseshoe Bend paid $10 for parking 15 million dollars a year native Americans must be rich

Austrian Bish · June 5, 2019 at 3:41 pm

I make pictures of nature (or other things) often to use it as references for drawing.

spacefrog 712 · June 6, 2019 at 4:21 am

It’s quite sad that it takes an Instagram post for us to notice nature’s beauty and destroy it so quickly

A slow FSH · June 7, 2019 at 10:45 am

Hotel? Trivago

Nick f · June 7, 2019 at 11:48 am

Am I the only one who's gonna start geo tagging "monuments" in the middle of nowhere??

Ender RJKD · June 9, 2019 at 4:45 am

M y family lives in that area and there are so many different spots like this that I'm worried will be revealed

Jordan Kanner · June 11, 2019 at 3:36 pm

Katerskill falls was my skinny dipping spot cause it was such a long hike to the waterfall basin, you could only get there safely from the bottom…now they carved stairs into the natural occurring stone so now anyone can come down with their kids or whatever… I miss when places like that we’re s destination not a stop in a tour where you come down for five minutes then leave .

shredcity · June 12, 2019 at 8:54 pm

So this one lookout point got busy- well then charge people a premium for parking and use that money to create infrastructure, control visitors and educate. The world is a big place and I bet 10 miles down the road there's another spot just as special with nobody on it

Ahmet A · June 13, 2019 at 9:16 pm

f…. amex

Little Papers Collection · June 15, 2019 at 4:13 am

People would be more cautious if there's no barrier on the edge of the mountain

DeezDeez History · June 18, 2019 at 9:36 am

Me a capitalist


Sierra Lobo · June 20, 2019 at 6:08 pm

Why are people so terrible to nature smh

aimar ramadhan · June 28, 2019 at 4:49 pm

The only answer to this video question is that ignorant or people who loves selfies destroys nature.

the ART of LaPierre · July 1, 2019 at 12:48 pm

eventually humans will be extinct…thank jesus!!!

Platoze · July 5, 2019 at 4:28 pm


Yuri · July 6, 2019 at 7:06 pm

Ah, Horseshoe Bend. Essentially where I witnessed the first death. Now, there are railings. The club and I are planning to go there again.

Travelator · July 6, 2019 at 9:54 pm

When a picturesque location gets far too many people than needed, it ceases to become a picturesque location.

That Flippin Guy · July 10, 2019 at 4:30 pm

There should be an age limit on national parks and forests.
Must be at least 21…and surrender your ID upon entry.

Glenn waffles · July 11, 2019 at 5:51 pm

Vox: Teaches viewers about social media making nature sights viral
Me: Bro look at this video you want to see this place

VASH · July 14, 2019 at 3:04 am

3:00 That dude in the background isn't moving at all

Gokulnath · July 14, 2019 at 8:25 pm

Great article

Ben Hill · July 15, 2019 at 3:46 am

I really appreciate the no geotag ending happy holidays everyone get out there and find somewhere new

Danny Paley · July 17, 2019 at 4:50 pm

Now, they have a giant fence at horseshoe bend.

Yaamin Mohmmed · July 20, 2019 at 2:01 am

They destroy it

Dillon Dodson · July 20, 2019 at 6:08 am

Living in page I've seen the growth growing up. I kinda don't like the mass amount of people who come and just ruin the experience.

But at the same time helps the cities industry, it's a double edged sword that I hope can be balanced.

我是真理现实Truth Reality · July 20, 2019 at 2:50 pm

Vox literally advertised for it. Making the situation worse. Like hundreds of thousands of people are going watch this.

VixonHQ · July 21, 2019 at 6:43 am

This is why i cant go on holidays. Too many people with their phones ruining the best locations

B Babbich · July 21, 2019 at 7:43 am

I went there back in 2013 back when IG was used primarily for food pics. There where about a few dozen people there spread out over a half-mile or so. Man oh man have things changed.

Zack Brumis · July 21, 2019 at 2:21 pm

Too many people on this planet

Cesar T · July 22, 2019 at 12:22 pm

This reminds me South Park’s film festival episode… human trashing out quite places ☹️

Viji · July 23, 2019 at 12:59 am

Vox has great style of presenting video!

Knight King · July 27, 2019 at 6:03 am

Lesson learned: when you see a beautiful scenery in nature, dont click a picture

Anime is Art · August 5, 2019 at 8:05 am

The first thing that came into my mind was garbage human …um.. I mean human garbage.

Katie Gerhardt · August 5, 2019 at 9:22 am

So social media is ruining everything, who knew🤷🏼‍♀️

Annika Jaglan · August 7, 2019 at 2:27 am

It wasn’t that crowded when I came and it was so much fun!!! Everyone should Come here!

Becky C. · August 9, 2019 at 9:05 pm

I know a solution: take a picture and don't show it to anyone!

Louizzza · August 11, 2019 at 6:04 pm

I was born and raised in a remote island in SE Asia. Tourism booming didn't even exist yet there, not even in our collective consciousness. Until a few decades later it is now the most famous tourist spot in country mainly because it's natural beauty, splendor and people. I've seen it's tourism culture created a phenomena against or towards our culture and the island's "true" beauty it delivers shatter. I don't even recognize the place I live. Too much exploitation of the tourists and the folks there (who gained a lot from tourism business) became some place very different same as the effects and developments mentioned in this video. Thankfully, our local government made measures because subconsciously they have seen the tourism boom and its impact beforehand but these will not be enough.

Josiah Tribble · August 16, 2019 at 9:34 pm

I always do my best to make sure I don’t disrupt anything in a setting like Horseshoe Bend. I agree exploring areas that are undeveloped can cause issues to the landscape. I fully support leave no trace, we wouldn’t want our children and our children’s children to see trash, and any kind of waste left behind and quite literally natural wonders being made into trash heaps and even seeing these beautiful areas thrashed and ruined be by some careless and thoughtless people. I wouldn’t close down these wonders to people, I’d just ask them to be more proactive and be great stewards of what’s around them. We need to be responsible with God above has given to us and it doesn’t matter what it is, we are to be great stewards of everything and yes, including nature.

Sebastian Ortega · August 18, 2019 at 4:47 pm


Angel · August 20, 2019 at 10:56 am

yep, it happened to my favourite local only beach, now theres trash and always busy even in the middle of winter. I now refuse to upload my hidden secret places that i find with my mum [we go exploring together, always have since i was a kid.]

Nick · August 20, 2019 at 4:52 pm

You basically explained it in the first minute.

NCT VELVET · August 23, 2019 at 7:01 am

That, you don't need to question

s o m e t h i n g · August 23, 2019 at 9:15 am

if nature goes viral, it will obviously be destroyed.

Niyololz · August 26, 2019 at 9:34 am

Like in the urbex community, don't geotag your photos.

Andrea Cernilogar · August 27, 2019 at 12:30 pm

I was thereee

0828daniel · August 29, 2019 at 7:12 pm

Great axample of this “Desecration” is Hawaii

Justice Hudson · August 30, 2019 at 9:54 pm

Love having my video sponsored by a predatory bank whose credit cards continue to plague the working class

Sutherland Rebecca · September 1, 2019 at 5:18 pm

This is so important

Patrick Barry · September 2, 2019 at 1:04 am

Please stay at home.

theory8sf · September 2, 2019 at 2:29 am

Oh boy!

Panca Yoga Purnama · September 2, 2019 at 9:43 am

did anyone found samuel l jackson here? he been jumped here by hayden christopher since 2009

Axel Buckets · September 2, 2019 at 4:33 pm

Big war going on in Utah about this

BLACK DEATH · September 2, 2019 at 9:30 pm

Thanos is right.

Henry Hu · September 3, 2019 at 4:33 am

Went there

Mitchell Cormack · September 3, 2019 at 10:03 am

Soylent Green is the solution

Tremain Bowman · September 3, 2019 at 12:15 pm

Humans go ruin it with there ridiculous narcissism and vanity

Dan Rodriguez · September 5, 2019 at 1:04 am

When humans really get involved, nature suffers. There's a similar bend in China by the Yangtze River called the Omega Bend. Destroyed because of human involvement. @vox

Stonie Wake · September 7, 2019 at 5:29 am

Wait you can’t stop people from going? Y’all could charge non locals. Sell it to trump

Nah, we going to build parking lots and side walks and portapots –

Wilson · September 7, 2019 at 1:07 pm

I love you, Vox.

FlowoodFb95 · September 10, 2019 at 12:43 am

I live right next to a popular national forest and let me tell you, it's a living nightmare to see all the tourists come during the summer and fall months. It's sad that most of these people come by social media influence. Every year, it just keeps getting worse and I honestly can't wait for the day when permits are being issued for specific trails.

Samy Bouzaglo · September 12, 2019 at 1:21 am

What happens if nature goes viral? Nothing, just like how nobody care about amazon fire or the melting artic

Peppa Pig · September 17, 2019 at 1:13 pm

Weird, isn’t it? My grandma used to tell me that Humanity can change the Earth but the Earth can never change Humanity

rozak fassah · September 18, 2019 at 1:53 pm

0:37 is that flixbus in USA?

Tutoy Bato Pablo · September 22, 2019 at 7:11 am

Where do you get your music from??

O. K. · September 22, 2019 at 4:39 pm


Zac’s Google Account · September 23, 2019 at 1:04 am

We destroy it

veldcorne · October 2, 2019 at 8:28 am


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