Where can I scatter cremated remains?

In addition to the more traditional avenues of cremation burial or preservation in a columbarium, the scattering of cremated remains is a meaningful and time-honored means of memorializing a loved one after cremation.

There are several methods for the release of cremated remains that can be personalized in any number of ways. Much of the decision depends on the wishes of the deceased and how those left behind want to honor that person's memory. Consider your choices carefully; once the cremated remains are scattered they are gone forever, unless you keep a portion of the cremated remains for remembrance or as part of a keepsake.

The last thing you want after losing someone you love is to have to worry about legal action.

Unfortunately, though, if you plan to scatter your loved one’s cremated remains, it is one more thing you have to think about. Believe it or not, there are a lot of rules when it comes to scattering cremation remains.

Private Property

If you own the property, you are free to scatter the cremated remains however you please. If it is property owned by someone else, it is important that you get their permission — and you may want to record their permission either with a tape recorder or on paper to be safe.

Public Parks

When it comes to public parks, scattering cremated remains depends on the city that owns and controls the park and their ordinances. Check with your local government to determine what rules they have about scattering cremated remains in public parks.


Most cemeteries allow spreading cremated remains, but require that it be done in a designated scattering garden area. It is best to check with the cemetery to ensure you are allowed to scatter cremated remains on the cemetery grounds before doing so. The cemetery may or may not have a fee involved with this process.

In conclusion, it is best if you do your research before you scatter any cremated remains, including:

Who owns the property? Is it public or private?
If it is private, contact the owner(s) and ask for their permission. You may want to document that permission.
If it is public, what laws does the local government have about spreading cremated remains?

It is always a good idea to make sure you will not be causing issues down the road, so do your research first and in all instances be sure to be respectful of the location where you scatter.

What are some tips for scattering cremated remains?

Cremation remains may be scattered personally or through a service depending on the method of dispersal. If you choose to perform your own scattering, it is best to have one person at a time control the release from the container while the others observe. A group may take turns doing a partial scattering one at a time, or they might release the cremated remains simultaneously from smaller containers each containing a portion of the cremated remains.

However the scattering takes place, it is important to cast the cremated remains downwind to keep the cremated remains from blowing onto your party. The cremated remains will consist of dense, sand-like matter and a few bone fragments that will likely fall to the ground quickly, but some will remain airborne in the form of a whitish-gray cloud upon dispersal. There are a variety of creative options for how and where the ashes are scattered.

Often, cremated remains are dispersed at a place that had personal or philosophical significance to the deceased. Keep in mind when choosing a location that there are laws governing the scattering of cremation remains. These laws vary from state to state and will affect how and where the cremated remains can be scattered, and whether you will need a permit to do so.

What are common dispersal methods?

Scattering by Air - A very symbolic gesture of freedom and release, scattering cremated remains into the air is a versatile method used to disperse cremated remains on private and public lands. After the scattering, the cremated remains can be ceremonially raked into the ground or left alone for the earth to claim.

Scattering by Trench - After a shallow trench or grove is dug into the soil, the cremated remains are ceremonially poured in and then covered with soil. The trench can simply be a hole, or shaped into a symbol or to spell out a word.

Scattering by Burial - Similar to the trench method but more akin to a traditional cremation burial. The cremated remains can simply be poured into the hole or placed in a biodegradable urn for burial.

Scattering by Water - 
If you choose to scatter cremated remains at sea, then you will be subject to the federal laws associated with scattering cremated remains in the ocean. According to the Federal Clean Water Act with regards to burial at sea, the following is NOT permitted:

(1) Scattering of human remains “within three nautical miles from shore”;
(2) Scattering of human remains across the openings of bays and rivers;
(3) Scattering of human remains at beaches or in wading pools nearby the ocean;
(4) Scattering of non-human remains (such as pets); and
(5) Depositing of materials which will not decompose in the ocean, including plastic decorative items, non-biodegradable urns, and other artificial materials. (Such materials will need to be disposed of separately.)

Scattering Gardens - A serene and spiritual event, this is a charming method for a final resting place. The scattering garden is located at a cemetery in an area that is set aside specifically for the scattering of cremated remains.

Some Unique Options:

Grief Journey - Cremated remains don't have to be scattered all in one place. If you divide the cremated remains into several small containers you can scatter the cremated remains wherever you see fit. Plan a vacation to visit places of significance, or make a spiritual pilgrimage. Another option is to keep the cremated remains in an urn and remove a tablespoon or two for scattering whenever you travel or move to a new place.

Ascension Release - Instead of being dispersed from the ground, another option is to have the cremated remains scattered from the sky. This is usually done by professionals, who cast the cremated remains from a private plane over sea or land. Other options include, but are not limited to, hang gliders, drones, hot air balloons and weather balloons. Some will allow you to do the scattering yourself or will coordinate with your ceremony to fly over and scatter the cremated remains so that the dispersal can be seen from the ground.

Memorial Crafting - A portion of the cremated remains can be preserved inside a keepsake or crafted into one. For example, a small amount of cremated remains can be handcrafted into glass-blown Memorial Jewelry or a Glass Cremation Urn.