What is it with all the Stacked Rocks?

Stacked Rocks

What is with all the stacked rocks?

I have seen them crop up in various places around the world, in my own travels and in other peoples images; Dan Shehan’s A moment of silence, please.

They seem to usually be near water, the beach, rivers, creeks, dry creek beds, oceans and waterfalls. I have seen them singularly and in large groups, flat rocks, round rocks, large and small.

I saw someone create the stack in the image featured here and I asked them why they did it? “It’s just what you do, isn’t it?” was their reply.

In an effort to find out what on earth these are for, I decided to to some investigation.

According to Wikipedia Rock Balancing – Rock balancing is an art, discipline, or hobby (depending upon the intent of the practitioner) in which rocks are balanced on top of one another in various positions. There are no tricks involved to aid in the balancing, such as adhesives, wires, supports, or rings.

They are a modern day form of Cairn, or land or trail marker.

A cairn is a human-made pile (or stack) of stones. The word cairn comes from the Scottish Gaelic: càrn (plural càirn).


Inuksuit in northern Canada were markers used for wayfinding and to locate caches of food or other stores.


A cairn to mark a mountain summit in Graubünden,Switzerland.

Cairns are used as trail markers in many parts of the world, in uplands, on moorland, on mountaintops, near waterways and on sea cliffs, as well as in barren deserts and tundra. They vary in size from small stone markers to entire artificial hills, and in complexity from loose conical rock piles to delicately balanced sculptures and elaborate feats of megalithic engineering. Cairns may be painted or otherwise decorated, whether for increased visibility or for religious reasons. An ancient example is the inuksuk (plural inuksuit), used by the Inuit, Inupiat, Kalaallit, Yupik, and other peoples of the Arctic region of North America. These structures are found from Alaska to Greenland. This region, above the Arctic Circle, is dominated by the tundra biome and has areas with few natural landmarks.

In modern times, cairns are often erected as landmarks, a use they have had since ancient times; but, since prehistory, they have also been built for a variety of other reasons, such as burial monuments and for defence and hunting, as well as ceremonial, astronomical, and other purposes.


Some think they are ‘Prayer-Stone’ stacks left in areas with a natural energy, many are calling for the practice to stop and see it as nothing more than a form of graffiti in a natural landscape; “Stop the rock-stacking – by Robyn Martin”.

One particular artist in Colorado, USA has made an art form out of stacking rocks, and is now embroiled in a dispute of human safety with the Boulder, Colorado Police Dept now making it illegal to stack rocks??

So is it harmless fun, an art form, graffiti, symbolism, religious, new age methodology, Wiccan, or something else? Should people stop doing the practice, especially if they do not know WHY they are doing it? Or should we continue to leave markers to follow the trail? Is it enhancing or degrading the natural beauty of an area?

Personally I find they can be an interesting addition to a landscape, especially where there is only one, or in a large group – and can be quite a sight. I have never made one myself, and I now know what they are, I possibly still won’t, but I find them fascinating and in a strange way; calming and meditative.

Til next time; peace and happy snapping