How Geocaching Works

Cache Out

Since 2000, the geocaching community has grown from a small group of enthusiasts to thousands of people interested in travel, hiking, sightseeing and treasure hunting. While most geocachers do their best to preserve the environment and respect the property of others, some organizations are concerned that the game could cause a panic or the destruction of carefully maintained sites.

In February 2007, the police department of Portsmouth, New Hampshire investigated what turned out to be a small geocache attached to an electrical panel at a supermarket. A couple of weeks earlier, an advertising agency's marketing ploy had effectively shut down the city of Boston when citizens reported suspicious electric devices placed in odd locations. The Portsmouth police department issued a report, chastising the geocacher for placing the cache in an area that could have caused a panic and warned geocachers that anyone hiding a cache in Portsmouth could be prosecuted. Geocachers have heard rumors that the entire state is considering a ban on geocaching out of the interest of public safety.

Parks are favorite sites for geocachers, but some have a perpetual ban on the game. The National Park Service doesn't allow geocaching on any of the lands it administers, because of the need to preserve fragile environments. Parks Canada has a similar position, though they refer to it as an interim policy while they decide on a more permanent set of rules. Geocachers are not allowed to hide any physical caches on land overseen by Parks Canada.

Many state parks will allow geocaching with some limitations. Park policies can vary widely between locations, so it's always important to contact the parks directly when placing a cache. Some parks may only require that you register the cache with them so they know where it is, while others have specific rules dictating where you can and can't put a cache. Some geocachers have followed the philosophy that hiding a cache isn't a problem until someone makes it one, but most argue that such an attitude is harmful for the hobby and casts all geocachers in a bad light.

For more information about geocaching, check out the links below.

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  • "Development of a Final Policy on Geocaching in Protected Heritage Areas Managed by Parks Canada". Parks Canada.
  • Geocacher University
  • "Reference: GPS Scavenger Hunting," Portsmouth Police Department News Release, February 4, 2007.
  • Sloan, Gene. "Philadelphia, other locales 'cache' in." USA Today. May 31, 2007.­2007-05-31-geocaching_N.htm