Anyone who wants to get a closer view of the new look of the Hopewell Rocks is being advised to be careful.

An estimated 200 tonnes of rock from one of the iconic flowerpot formations came tumbling down early Monday morning after the tide went out.

The formation, known as Elephant Rock, is the one in the middle of the three formations pictured on New Brunswick's Medicare card.

Kevin Snair, the supervisor of interpretive services at the site, says anyone going near the rocks should be very careful.

"There is nothing there for their safety and they should definitely be careful when they're walking there," said Snair.

"Best-case scenario would be if you're walking and exploring at the park, they're there at their own risk and should be keeping away from the cliff's edge and enjoying them from a distance."

Safety hazards identified

Each year the park hires an independent company to survey the cliff faces and knock down loose rocks.

Snair says this is done ahead of the park's opening in May to identify any potential safety hazards.

Even still, he said the park can never say the walls are 100 per cent safe.

Snair hasn't heard from anyone who witnessed Monday's event.

Debris that would have been swept away with the tide was still present, giving a rough indication of when the collapse occurred.

As sad as it may be to see one of the park's named formations lose its identity, Snair said, it's part of what the area is known for.

"The whole park is formed by this exact action that happened," he said, "to be able to see that that is still happening and the park is still evolving is a beautiful thing."

The park has 17 flowerpot formations on its shoreline, named for their resemblance to the namesake because of the trees growing on top.

Medicare photo

Elephant Rock almost wasn't the Hopewell formation that graced the province's medicare card.

Donald Alward recalls working as a student guide at the site in the early 1990s when he was told by his boss to take a photographer to see the Lovers Arch formation at the bottom of the stairs.

"Well he did that, took it from several different angles" remembers Alward, who then convinced the photographer to go look at some of the other formations.

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Elephant Rock is the formation in the middle of the three formations from Hopewell Rocks shown on the New Brunswick Medicare card.

Alward says he walked him to the other side of Big Cove before telling him to turn around.

"When we turn around, that's what we see, is that Elephant Rock. He took that picture, and I was there."

Alward, who is now the manager and curator at the Albert County Museum, laments the loss of a provincial icon, but like Snair, concedes it's a natural process.

He said he thinks it will actually provide a boost to tourism from people who want to see the change.

Alward also hopes the province will keep the original photo on its Medicare card.

"It's a testament to what happens as a province," he said. 

"Although things change, we always have to look at how stable and strong what remains is still there."