Please, please stop leaving 'love locks' at the Grand Canyon

Love locks attached to fence
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Park Rangers are pleading with visitors not to leave 'love locks' at the Grand Canyon due to the danger to California condors, which have a tendency to pick up and sometimes eat shiny objects.

Love locks are padlocks that couples secure around railings or bridges in a public place, often engraved with their initials, as a symbol of their commitment to one another. The couple will often throw the key off the side of the bridge, or in this case, into the Grand Canyon.

Throwing anything off the canyon rim is a crime, and can be punishable by a hefty fine and even jail time. In December last year, a TikTok influencer was charged with three misdemeanors after hitting golf balls into the Grand Canyon, then throwing the club in too.

Although they're much smaller, keys are still a danger. They could hit a person below at speed, and as the National Park Service (NPS) explained in a Facebook post, they pose a real threat to wildlife.

"Condors are curious animals and much like a small child will investigate strange things they come across with their mouths," Park Rangers wrote. "Condors love shiny things. They will spot a coin, a wrapper, or a shiny piece of metal, like a key from a padlock that has been tossed into the canyon and eat it."

Rangers added an x-ray image of a condor that had swallowed coins tossed into the canyon, and required surgery to remove them from its digestive tract.

Bringing out the bolt cutters

Love locks aren't only a problem in the Grand Canyon. In 2014, part of the Pont Des Arts bridge in Paris collapsed under the sheer weight of thousands of locks it was never designed to bear. Nobody was injured when part of the overloaded railing gave way, but the city's head of cultural affairs Bruno Julliard said the incident "confirms that our desire to find an alternative to these locks is a real necessity."

Back in 2007, the mayor of Rome introduced fines for anyone leaving a lock on a lamp post on the Ponte Milvio, over the Tiber river. Couples would toss their keys into the water after securing their padlock. In 2012, thousands of the locks were removed from the post with bolt cutters after local authorities said that rust from them was beginning to damage the bridge.

Cat Ellis

Cat is the editor of Advnture, She’s been a journalist for 15 years, and was fitness and wellbeing editor on TechRadar before joining the Advnture team in 2022. She’s a UK Athletics qualified run leader, and in her spare time enjoys nothing more than lacing up her shoes and hitting the roads and trails (the muddier, the better), usually wearing at least two sports watches.