The word”cairn” is derived from the Scottish Gaelic meaning stone man. It can invoke images of faith, purpose and an experience of spirituality. In the backcountry, making cairns is a trend and it’s not difficult to understand why people feel attracted to these cute little stones that are balanced like child’s building blocks. With shoulders hurting and black flies buzzing around ears, a hiker will look over the stones in front of her hop over to this website and try to choose one that has just the right balance of tilt and flatness along with depth and breadth. After a few close misses (one that’s too bulgy, another that’s too small) the shrewd will pick the one that’s set perfectly in the spot, and then the second layer of the cairn will be complete.

But what many people don’t realize is that cairn-making can have an adverse environmental impact, especially when it’s done near water sources. When rocks are removed from the edges of in a lake, river, or pond, they alter the ecosystem and cause destruction of the microorganisms’ habitats that help to support the entire food chain. They can also be carried away from the edges of a pond, river or lake by erosion and end up in areas where they may harm wildlife or humans.

This is why the practice of building cairns should be avoided in areas that have endangered or rare mammals, amphibians or reptiles or plants and flowers that require moisture that is held in the rocks. If you build a stone cairn on private property, it could be in violation of federal and state laws protecting the natural resources of the land and result in fines and arrest.