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Scattering Ashes in the USA National Parks

I can see why many Americans would opt to have their ashes scattered in one of the National Parks: the size and grandeur are breathing, the sense of scale, space and wilderness are awe-inspiring

The good news is you can – the Park Service routinely grants permission for scattering of ashes. The same is true of the Bureau of Land Management. Every location has its own rules.

Before I go on I have to say this is not my own research it comes from an article written by David Skidmore of the Chicago Tribune, a link to which can be found at the bottom. So I will be basing this on that, so thanks Mark.

What you need to do: Send a request into the office responsible for managing the site. For the national parks applications can be submitted online. Each have their different rules

Where do I find the contact details:

National Parks:

Bureau of land management:

What does it cost: it is free

How long do it to process: up to two weeks

The following is general advice Kyle Patterson from Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park the park’s public affairs officer.

There are no designated sites for the scattering of ashes (sometimes called cremains in the US)  within the park, but the location must be away from developed areas.

People should not to scatter remains in parking lots or at trailheads, in camping or picnic areas, and we want them to be at least 200 feet from a water source, such as a lake or stream

Discretion should be exercised when spreading the ashes so they’re not disturbing people who might be in the area.

While the spreading of ashes is allowed, marking the site with a memorial is not,

We don’t allow any plaques or displays or cairns or other things that someone might want to place next to the place where they scattered the ashes.

Some other points that Mr Skidmore has unearthed are of interest:

Some parks have specific sites for scattering, such as Bryce Canyon National Park, which limits scattering to Pirates Point.

A number have tighter controls over what happens at the scattering (no music at Bryce Canyon; no release of birds, butterflies or other objects at Great Smoky Mountains National Park).

Some parks allow scattering by air with minimum altitudes (2,000 feet at Sequoia and Kings Canyon, 1,000 feet at Yellowstone). In every instance you must have your permit with you when you do the scattering.

Beyond the regular fees for entering a park, there are usually no additional fees for scattering ashes of loved ones (larger gatherings might require a special-use permit).

Good news I feel, particularly the fact that the parks are prepared to take on an admin burden at no cost to the public. The only point that did raise an eyebrow was the fact the Ms Pattterson felt the need to highlight the fact that people should not scatter in car parks. I had this mental image which is slightly clichéd of a couple sitting in their car overlooking some wondrous natural phenomena saying: ‘Ol’ Hank he loved the great outdoors, a real cowboy: the wide spaces and the call of the wild, this is just the place he would want to be laid to rest. Now, Daisy-May would you pass me that the urn and wind the window down…’

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