The Environmental Impact of Cairn Making

The word”cairn” is derived from the Scottish Gaelic meaning stone man. It is a symbol of faith, purpose, and a spiritual journey. Cairn construction is a popular activity in the backcountry. It’s easy to understand why people are drawn to these tiny piles of flat stones that can be stacked as if they were blocks for children. With shoulders hurting and black flies buzzing in ears, hikers will take a look at the stones around her and attempt to select one that is just the right mix of flatness and tilt in depth, breadth and width. After a few near misses (one that’s too bulgy and another that’s too small) The solitary will pick the one that’s perfectly in place, and the subsequent layer of the cairn becomes complete.

Many people are unaware that cairn building can create negative environmental impacts particularly near water sources. When rocks are removed from the edge of a river, pond or lake, it dishevels the ecosystem and destroys the habitat of microorganisms that support the entire food chain. Additionally these rocks can be carried away by erosion to locations where they could harm wildlife or humans.

This is why the practice of constructing cairns is not recommended in areas where there are endangered or rare reptiles, amphibians, mammals or plants and flowers that require the humidity that is locked in the rocks. If you construct a rock cairn on private land, this may violate federal and state laws protecting the natural assets of the click for source land. This could result in fines and arrest.