Lake Erie cairns

by Kaylah Stroup

Are you guys familiar with cairns? A cairn is literally just a human made pile of rocks. Sometimes they’re used to mark trails, or signify someone has died in a certain spot. In certain areas they’re used as a hunting implement to direct animals toward a game jump. Other times, and in this case, they’re made just because they look really awesome. Basically there are tons of reasons one might build a cairn, and tons of places you might find one!

I remember the first time I saw cairns. I was on a camping trip, and we were kayaking down the river. We rounded a corner and, to the left, the rocky shoreline was covered in these stacks of rocks. There were TONS of them, and some were taller than me. I didn’t know what they were, or why they were there but I instantly loved them. I excitedly took a few photos. It was another year before I saw another one which I shared a photo of here! Four more years passed, and finally last week I spotted another while walking on the beach. It was only three rocks high, so hardly a cairn at all but it inspired me.

Before I knew it I had built a whole bunch of them. Our beaches here in Cleveland aren’t very rocky, at least not the ones I frequent but we do seem to have an abundance of bricks. I used a combination of rocks, bricks, logs, driftwood, styrofoam, and even trash to make mine.

wendy park, cairn, whiskey island, ohio
Rock stacking

They’re just piles of rocks but I can’t get over how awesome my little creation looked. I built them on a section of the beach that sometimes completely disappears when the tide comes in. I doubt my structures lasted more than a day or two but I hope someone spotted them before they washed back into the water. 

Don’t be surprised to see if you see more of these popping up on the blog later this summer. I’m hooked! I’m excited to go back and see what I can do with a little bit more time, and on a day when there are more large pieces of…well, whatever waiting for me! Building things on the beach is easily one of my favorite hobbies.

Check out my found on the beach tag for more interesting beach related posts!

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Alexandra July 18, 2016 - 1:42 pm

OMG that doll hand (!!). I see these a lot hiking and they always make me smile. They look so much like little cities from a distance 🙂

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:14 am

Yep, totally what they remind me of too!!

ilikecake July 18, 2016 - 3:17 pm

just fyi making these rock sculptures is bad for the environment

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:19 am

Nahhh. Making broad generalizations is pretty bad though. If you honestly think that stacking rocks on a beach is bad for the environment then I don't know what to tell ya…

J July 18, 2016 - 4:16 pm

I am holidaying in Scandinavia at the moment and they are everywhere in mountainous areas! I am Dutch myself and we call them 'steenmannetjes' (little stone men).

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:19 am

That's super cool!

Sarah July 18, 2016 - 5:54 pm

Omg, these rule. I see them often along the beaches in Vancouver but your trinket toppers make them even cuter. 🙂

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:26 am

Hah! Thanks! I couldn't not add a little flair to them! 😉

Lela Bungard July 18, 2016 - 7:22 pm

What a cool post! A friend of mine is always making rock stacks wherever he goes. I've come home to find them in my flowers, a sure sign he stopped by while I was away. I didn't know they had a specific name till now.

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:27 am

Aw, that's really really cute!

Margaret Forsey July 18, 2016 - 8:01 pm

I like to build cairns on the beach, too! And also Inukshuk. ( these are traditional Inuit cairns that loosely resemble the human form). It is so relaxing and meditative . As you said, you just start to make one and soon you are surrounded by many! I like the cairns that you made. It is cool that you incorporated some trash! Rhank youfor sharing!

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:28 am

Thanks! Inukshuk look SO awesome! I've never seen one of those in person.

Tara Hammond July 18, 2016 - 8:30 pm

Wow! These are really pretty. I love all the different shades of brown.

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:34 am

Thanks Tara! I really enjoy the colors as well, especially with those shipping containers in the background of the photo!

Sarah Albertson July 19, 2016 - 12:57 am

Cairns are so neat! I first heard about them when I was a kid and then went and made a whole bunch around my parent's yard. I love how mysterious and intriguing they look!

Kaylah July 19, 2016 - 10:34 am

Hah, cute! Yep, they totally do look mysterious which is probably what attracts them to me the most.

Jennifer July 19, 2016 - 1:36 pm

Had no idea there was a formal name for these! When hiking in Maine, when we reached the top of a mountain there would be a big pile of rocks, and we would grab a new rock and add to the pile, sort of a collection of how many people made the whole trip.

Anne Pieser July 19, 2016 - 7:14 pm

These pics are so cool. Looks like something from a newly formed tribe.

The Evil Banana July 22, 2016 - 6:36 pm

there is a lovely documentary on natural and temporary art in nature by humans i used to watch with my aunt like 10 years ago, i need to find and recommend it to you.

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