Deconstructing Trailheads: Six Frames for Wilderness and a Rhetorical Intervention for Ecology


  • Casey R. Schmitt University of Wisconsin-Madison


place and space, nature, material rhetoric, wilderness, National Parks


This essay applies rhetorical analysis to the semantically loaded locations at trailheads, parks, and nature preserve entryways. Using the trailhead markers of the Apostle Islands National Lakeshore as a field-based case study, I identify six common rhetorical frames in the trailhead location—distinction, danger, sacrifice, stewardship, prescribed activity, and tactical disruption—and discuss how each perpetuates a problematic everyday nature-culture divide. In analyzing the rhetorical functions of physical places, I advocate for embodied critical methods and revisions to the rhetorics of nature preserves and conservancies.

Author Biography

Casey R. Schmitt, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Casey R. Schmitt is a lecturer and Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Communication Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research combines rhetorical analysis, fieldwork, and geography to assess official and vernacular communication around wilderness and natural spaces.






Issue #15