Everyone has been hiking with their fly rod and seen rock pilings on the sides of the river banks and small streams. These are called “Rock Cairns,” which are human-made when someone stacks flat river rock on top of each other. This ultimately effects macro invertebrates and other aquatic insects and species when being removed from the water with exposure to sunlight. It can kill macro invertebrates which fish tend to feed on.

Check out the story below from Ben Wayne, @browntroutben. 

A note from Ben Wayne:

“I’ve come across quite a few Rock Cairns in the last couple weeks. I genuinely think that most people who do it don’t understand that it can be harmful. So I thought I’d take a moment to explain why you shouldn’t stack rocks. It removes macro invertebrates and salamander habitat. These pilings can kill endangered and threatened salamander species like the Eastern Hellbender, the Mudpuppy and their eggs. Rock cairns are also used as trail markers on some trail systems and needless ones can get hikers lost. Finally, it violates one of the most basic principles of outdoor recreation, leave no trace. Nature is plenty beautiful without someone leaving a little reminder that they were there. If I see one, call me godzilla because it’s coming down.”

“Even if you don’t think there are ecological ramifications to making the cairns it still goes against leave no trace principles. There is a peer reviewed article published on 2017 on rock cairns and how they increased the mortality of Eastern Hellbenders. There is date linking the two.”

When seeing rock cairns while you are on the water, respectfully release the rocks back into the river bed. This will allow for the insects and smaller aquatic species to reproduce, and effectively survive.

If you’re interested in this story, please visit the links below to learn more about Rock Cairns:

Leaving No Trace – Rock Stacking (Courtesy of Ausable River Association) 

These Impacts are Stacking Up (Courtesy of Leave No Trace Organization)

You can find Ben Wayne on Instagram @browntroutben guiding for Boones Fly Shop and High Country Guides. Ben is a College Professor of Biology and Science Education. Check out his website here. 


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