Video of a river rock balancer


I was in my hometown of Boulder, Colorado over the weekend for a family reunion. On Friday afternoon we had a picnic at Eben G. Fine Park, which is bordered on one side by Boulder Creek. I noticed some stone sculptures coming out of the water and walked over to snap a photo (above, click to embiggen). I thought they were a permanent fixture, and that the rocks had been cemented together, because they looked impossibly balanced.

But a couple of days later I was looking in the Boulder Daily Camera, and I discovered that the rock sculptures were not cemented together. They had just been placed there earlier in the day by a man named Mike Grab. He has a website with photos of his sculptures, called Gravity Glue.

[Video Link]


  1. Totally awesome.  I sometimes attempt rock-stacking at Ocean Beach (on a smaller and far less skillful scale, admittedly)…it’s meditative and fun.

    That guys’ feet must be freezing though…

  2. It’s too bad there isn’t a clear shot of him placing a rock in what appears to be an impossible way, then letting it go, allowing it to miraculously stand on its own

  3. Wait a second. This post and the one about the levitating yogis aren’t related, are they?

  4. People have been rock balancing on the beaches of Vancouver since at least the mid ’90s. It would be nice if this guy at least tried to explain his influences without all the new age babble.

    1.  I saw these rock stacks last Thursday.  Funny, I couldn’t see the bad pixels in real life.  Maybe your pshop detection algorithm needs a touch up.

      1. I think your sarcasm meter is broken or perhaps your subscription to “popular internet memes of days gone by” needs to be renewed

        1. apologies, good sir.   Rereading with a fresh mind, with a sharp rap to the side of the sarcasm meter, makes me think a refresher course in stale memes might be in order.

  5. there was a guy who used to come through reno every fall (or was it spring?) about a decade ago or so and he would always spend time doing this with rocks in the Truckee river. they would appear over a weekend, like magic. i used to look forward to seeing them. i haven’t seen anyone around here doing that in a long time.

  6. That park is a short walk from the house my grandparents lived in, 474 Arapahoe. I see from Google Maps / Street View that the house was torn down and replaced with a bigger house making the backyard smaller. I only got to visit there a few times but good memories all. Used to be a little mom and pop grocery store on the corner on the way to the park, I think it was Steele’s Store, but my memory may be wrong. Looks like it is a hair salon now.

  7. I live in Boulder and last winter someone set up these sculptures all the way to Winter Park Ski Resort where we go every weekend.

    This is quintessential Boulder.

  8. I’m lucky enough to live near the Ottawa, Ontario version of this guy, Jose Ceprano: 

  9. racing at speed-stacking stones is one of my favourite beach-party games.
    You get to keep a hand on the top-most stone the whole time but you’d be surprised at how stable some towers are.
    Anybody who’s tower stands after letting go drinks double.

  10. No, this is wrong. 

    What is with the human compulsion to alter every frickin’ environment we come across?The stones were home to insect larvae, crayfish and all sorts of things. It was beautiful on its own before you messed it up.  Leave the river alone.

      1. this took an hour to make over 5 or 6 attempts with the waves completely sucking the rocks back into the giant undercurrent of other rocks out in the ocean and me just having the time of my life . it lasted as long as it took for me to get back to the camera and take a couple pictures.

        oooh so disturbing


  11. This isn’t art. This is vandalism. No one has the right to alter a natural public space without the consent of the people. How selfish and thoughtless this is! And now that it is gaining popularity people are starting to do this in national parks, wrecking the natural beauty and scenic values that they were created to preserve for eternity. When ever I see this crap I usually knock them down. Hopefully this is a shortlived fad. It makes my stomach turn thinking that people think this is OK on public property.

    1. I was wondering who tossed those rocks about so carelessly! You put them back in all the wrong places, making the landscape look like a shambles. Don’t you know it’s supposed to be big, medium, big, big, little, medium, small, small, big, tiny, medium? Get it right next time! It’s people like you who give entropy a bad name.

    2. You know that the rocks are just going to fall back into the river?  And that small rocks move around in rivers every year during floods?  So next year, it’s right back to being scenic for all eternity.

      1. The point you are missing, Antinous, is that those of us looking for natural beauty end up having to look at goofy attempts at self-expression until the flood waters wipe it out.  As you mention, that could be a year or more.  The “sculptures” in this particular video may not last very long but it encourages other people to do the same.  I have seen river beds trashed by well meaning but clueless “artists” in NH and VT.

        Let sleeping rocks lie.

    3. So can I dismantle your bike, car and/or tent? May I kick over your child’s sandcastles and snowmen? I assume none are approved by the Munoz Committee for Pious Landscaping.

    4. they were created to preserve for eternity.—  Lighten thou up.  A few stacked rocks for a couple of months, tops, is nothing.  You should see that creek  during spring runoff. Guarantee those little rocks will be distributed back with the rest of the creek bottom.

      See the big rocks on the bottom, the river moved them into place, too.  Little ricks don’t have a change in this world.

  12. Mark, if you’re ever up the 101 in Ventura, there’s a rock balancing “park” of sorts at the beach behind the fairgrounds.  I thought people had just taken to stacking stones, as the beach has been under reconstruction back there, but there are four carved instructional stones, showing a series of rocks being stacked one on top of another.  It’s really quite clever, and a great way to get the kids involved in hands on nature and art.  (Stacking park, instructional stone.)

  13. I’m sorry, but I call BS until he can show video of himself placing a rock and then taking his hand off of it. If you look at this video, all he ever does is place a rock (without taking his hands off of it) or take his hands off of a rock (without us seeing him place it). Actually, the only reason I can think of to believe this is that the activity is too pointless to bother faking. :P

  14. I remember encountering these in the Green Mountain National Forest in Vermont, back in ’91. A lovely surprise.

  15. I love it (tho particularly when it’s new-age-free) and If you are in the UK and want to see it in action come down to the beach in Lyme Regis and watch Adrian Gray, he’s here most days during the summer unless it’s really windy.

  16. Cheeeeeeriiiist, what a load of straight-up negativity on this here thread.

    Hell, when I came out of my work today I encountered a rather sloppily stacked pile of human feces. I’d much preferred this fella’s stone stackin’ any day.
    Hey, mister Grab, if you’re hankerin’ for a new venue, come on down to SoMa. I’ll provide some rocks for you to work with. 

  17. anyone who kicks over balanced stones… i hope it lands on your big toe and you go home even grumpier than you were and your underwear rides up your craque and you get chafed and the next time you do it it happens again and you just keep doing it until you die a sad, unimpressable, lonely, uncreative slag.

  18. When you come across vandalism like this rock re-arranging crap, kick it over.

    The ego-maniacs who rip apart rivers will eventually get the idea that their desecration of nature will not be tolerated.

  19. Been doing this for awhile and all the local residents loved seeing it appear near the waterfront. Family’s walking by would often have their children join in while I teach them; good for mom and dad if their kids get addicted to cheap free toys like rocks :D

  20. Also I don’t mind if people knock mine down, the entire art is a lesson in impermanence anyways. Can’t stop people if they want to be jerks so i’ll just continue stacking for fun.

    1. There is a Zen saying, “Before Enlightenment chop wood carry water, after Enlightenment, chop wood carry water.”

  21. I’m so glad there is others voicing their annoyance with this egocentric new-age non-sense.  I have made hikes into several spots in N. California where the landscape is marred with unnatural constructs.  Looks stupid, carried out with stupid intentions (uhh yeah man its about meditation and balance and uhhh, nature! yeah) and I would argue it teaches kids the opposite of what should be taught about parks and nature (namely enjoy it in its natural state, leave no trace).  Obviously all us human morans are gonna keep doing what they think is right, but I argue that you rock stackers are the “jerks”.  Think twice before you decide to stack!

    1. Voicing your opinion is fine.  I’m sure you can do it without being rude and insulting.

    2. I think its futile- too many newage mumbo-jumbo half-baked morans
      support this instant zen art.  Its probably just saner to ignore it till
      they move onto some other (hopefully less invasive) idiotic fad.

      Like this:


      And this isn’t about being zen. It’s about creating something beautiful and transient, something which won’t last long with or without grumpy haters destroying it because it’s not to their personal liking.

      Also, it’s spelled morons, not morans. A moran is an unwed Maasai warrior.

    3. I too hike around N. California, and I’ve come across the “unnatural constructs”.  Are you sure they aren’t cairns?   Knocking down a trail marker could have the unintended effect of creating wider and more trails through our precious nature.  Better to have a few stacked rocks and a single trail than no artificially stacked rocks and multiple trails.

  22. True, quite likely to be gone next year, but not good enough for me.

    The maximum intrusion I could accept would be something like 24 hours, i.e. sandcastles removed by tide , snow sculptures that will melt, arrangements of leaves that will be taken by the wind etc.

    If a year’s recovery is OK one could for example remove large patches of vegetation and say it would grow back next spring. Other things could be removing bark from trees, mess up ant hills and nests, dig into riverbanks … etc etc. A frequently visited area would be fucked up in no time.

    1. It’s unlikely they’d stay vertical that long anyway. But I’ll bet that if enough people asked the stackers politely to redistribute the rocks over the river bed after, say, a few days, most would gladly oblige. But when critics assume they’re of a “mushy zen-babble touchy-feely newage mindset” with a “bloated ego and false piety”, that’s rather less likely to gain sympathy.

  23. There is a lot of thin skin censorship happening here.  Sorry I was brash, keep stacking your rocks and meditating.  Look up moran again in google pictures, its what I meant. Now I know that BB is moderated by rock stackers!!!

    1. Censorship is the silencing of opposition, not the rebuking of it.

      Criticism of critisicm =/= censorship.

      As with morons who misspell “morons” on a placard, your understanding of the English language is quite imaginative.

      If you want to discuss the pros and cons of rock stacking, I’d be happy to listen. I would probably even join in asking rock stackers to dismantle their creations after a few days in which those of us who appreciate them could enjoy them. But when you come in swinging with slurs and calls to kick them over, you won’t catch too many bees. When you insult this artform and those who appreciate it, then cry foul at being rebuffed, it does not further your argument.

      1. I think hanoirockz is referring to the fact that I deleted some of his/her more hateful comments.  For those who crave more of a free-for-all comment thread, YouTube is always open.

  24. I have to admit, the guy’s pretentious website is a bit of a turn-off. I’m all for transitory art. Balanced rock sculptures and dribble sand castles are some of my favorite art to create because I know it won’t last. But I do it in the hope that someone might see it, get a little surprised joy, and perhaps add to it or even knock it down before the elements destroy it. Part of the fun (in my opinion) is the anonymity – making such things in places where it will catch someone by surprise after I have gone. But I guess that’s my own feeling about it. My wife and I made a little stone henge on the shores of Loch Ness once…called it “Squirrel Henge” for some reason. When we came back the next day, Squirrel Henge was still there surrounded by a lot of other artistic rock piles. That was a good feeling…to help inspire a little artistic joy in strangers.

    Anyway, I guess I shouldn’t judge this guy so harshly. Just because that’s my take on the art form doesn’t mean his take is wrong.

  25. For peeps living in Seattle there are similarly balanced rocks along the Elliott Bay bike trail in Centennial Park.

  26. Stacked rocks have a place and time as art. That place and time exists on private property. Not everyone likes to see stacked rocks (myself included) in nature. I see them everywhere in the pacific northwest of the United States of America and it spoils the landscape. I understand that they are temporary but they can also be hazardous. For example: at the Newberry Caldera in Central Oregon, there is a very large obsidian flow. The obsidian is gorgeous and how it ripples and peaks just blows my mind. Along the trail there was a large group of stacked obsidian. If that were to fall, it would shatter a lot of the rocks and send shards flying in every direction. I safely dismantled the stack because I didn’t want some kid to come by and accidentally knock it over and get diced.

    JBarnes01: All the more reason to not make them out of “fun.” If an area has them as trail markers, then it would be bad to have “fun” ones built up slightly off the trail. It would make more trails as well.

  27. The backwards baseball cap immediately and irrefutably invalidates this person as both an artist and a human.

    1. Can you seriously not picture what will happen if he tries doing this with the hat on forward?

  28. This is actually quite easy. Find some small (like 0.5cm pea size gravel) and wedge it at the base of the rock. It’s too small to see so it looks like it’s balancing when it’s really just propped up by the small chunks. With a little patience, you can build a fairly strong foundation. Check it:

    1. doing it without the wedge stones is the real challenge. of course they have thier time and place…

      and to those who dislike it… its just cause you cant do it. too much coffee? not enough grounded presence ?  generally just a downer kind of guy? enjoy!

      1. People who dislike it are entitled to their own opinion. You don’t need to insult us by implying that we can’t stack rocks. It isn’t because we aren’t grounded or a downer. It is because we dislike how they look. I’m sure there are things out there that you dislike how they look but someone else really likes it. That’s part of being human: our differences make us stronger while our similarities unite us.

        1. well i am all for that. i was just trying to be as snarky as i thought he was.
          i like neat things. i think balancing rocks is a neat thing ibet if you tried it you would think it was neat too
          and thats basically the argument for why peiople dont understand each other.
          i like =/= you like but we can all work to find a common ground
          ill stop cutting on nascar and watching tv  then

  29. This is way better than that riduculous ‘urban foraging’ which is basically stealing public plant life. This is just moving rocks around, and they will fall down easily. Why would this upset anyone? The rocks are gonna be ok!

  30. I’ve been disappointed when I’ve seen stacked rocks on the Maine shore.
    I can understand the appeal of rocks stacked in a parking lot or by a ranger shelter or even a lean-to. But when there are stacks on the shore in plain sight, I think it’s a form of unwelcome exhibitionism. I didn’t go there to see someone’s erections, I want to see unspoiled views and natural beauty. The tide pools and woods don’t need any help from rock stackers or people who scratch their messages on rocks and trees.

  31. Mike lives in my apt. complex. Talented to say the least, I’ve heard he does it to relax. You should see our back yard.

  32. We all come into this life with a gift; each of those gifts are different (kinda like finger prints and DNA).
    Many never discover thier particular gift due to distractions or lack of encouragement from family members or mentors.
    Instead of shipping our tots of to a Public Schools system that exists only to Homogenize are our Kids into a cookie cutter system that  fails completely to deal with the creative gift that will go undiscovered for lack perceptive, enlightened and caring teachers,
    Creative minds are gifts that need nurturing..Stacking rocks in a stream is art.  ahrmand  

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