Jeffrey Pine tree situated on Sentinel Dome in Yosemite National Park, California

These breathtaking natural wonders no longer exist

From entire islands to storied rock formations, iconic landmarks have been lost to history. But it’s not too late to see, and appreciate, those that remain.

​JEFFERY PINE, YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK

This dead and wind-battered Jeffery pine atop Yosemite’s Sentinel Dome, made famous by Ansel Adams, finally toppled in 2003. The picturesque California tree was one of the world’s most photographed, appearing in glass plate images as early as the 1860s.
Photograph by Harald Sund, Getty Images

Landscapes shape our sense of place, yet Earth is constantly changing. The forces of volcanism, wind, water, sun, and, yes, people, relentlessly conspire to transform what we consider familiar terrain—pummeling cliffs into beaches, eroding vast canyons, forming new land with bubbling lava, and shifting the course of mighty rivers.

Indeed, change is the only constant—an idea seeded by Greek philosopher Heraclitus back in the fifth century B.C. and echoed by philosophers ever since. But people often forget that Heraclitus believed fear of change is also a constant. Perhaps it’s this sense of looming impermanence that compels travelers to see natural wonders before they’re forever altered.

In the last 50 years, hundreds of natural landmarks around the world have drastically shape-shifted—or worse, disappeared. Most recently, Darwin’s Arch in the Galápagos Islands collapsed into the sea, joining other structures, such as Arches National Park’s “Wall Arch” and Malta’s “Azure Window,” lost to history. Here are landmarks that no longer exist—and some fragile sites you can still visit, responsibly.

Book your next trip with Peace of Mind
Search Trips

This story has been updated since it first published on September 14, 2017.

Read This Next

What drives elephant poaching? It’s not greed
How old are you, really? The answer is written on your face.
The rise of vegan safaris

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet