The word cairn is derived from the Scottish Gaelic meaning stone man. It may conjure images of faith, purpose, and the spiritual journey. In the backcountry, cairn-making is a popular trend and it’s not difficult to see why people are attracted to these adorable piles of flat stones which are positioned like child’s building http://cairnspotter.com/what-is-cairn-making/ blocks. A hiker who is suffering from aching shoulders and black flying flies buzzing her ears will attempt to choose a rock that is the perfect combination of flatness, tilt, width and depth. After a few missed opportunities (one too big, one too small) The solitary will pick the stone that is perfectly positioned. The second layer of the Cairn is complete.
Many people are unaware that cairn building can cause environmental harm particularly near water sources. When rocks are removed from the edge of in a lake, river, or pond, they can disrupt the ecosystem and cause destruction of the microorganisms’ habitats that are the backbone of the food chain. These rocks may be swept away from the edges of a pond or lake due to erosion. They can end up in places where they could inflict harm on humans or wildlife.
Cairn building should be avoided in areas that have rare or endangered mammals, reptiles amphibians, flowers, or reptiles or in areas where the moisture is trapped under the rocks. If you construct a rock cairn in private land, it could be in violation of federal and state regulations protecting the natural resources of the land and result in fines and arrest.