Where can I legally scatter ashes?

If you’ve recently experienced a loss and your loved one chose to be cremated, then there is a chance you may be thinking about where you’ll scatter the ashes. Scattering cremains is not a decision to be taken lightly. In addition to taking the final wishes of the deceased into account, you will also want to make sure that you can legally scatter the ashes in a specific area. Scattering ashes is not always quite as straightforward as you may think. Different guidelines apply to certain areas - it is important to research any restrictions that are in place before you proceed with an ash-scattering ceremony.

In this article, we’ll look at some of the most popular places in which to scatter ashes and discuss if certain rules apply.

The Ocean

People often travel great lengths to scatter a loved one’s ashes at sea. Perhaps the ocean held a special memory or was a place where the deceased came for peace. Scattering ashes at sea is not as simple as you may think. Although the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a general permit under the Marine Protection, Research and Sanctuaries Act (MPRSA) to allow human burials at sea, it is necessary to travel further than three nautical miles from the shore. Further, the MPRSA has stated that pet remains are not allowed, and that the container used (as well as any accessories, such as flowers) must be decomposable.

National Parks

According to Legacy.com, most (but not all) national parks allow you to scatter human ashes on their lands. Before embarking on your journey to your loved one’s favorite national park, however, it is important to first determine if scattering ashes is allowed. You’ll then need to apply for a permit or get permission from the park ranger, if necessary. Visit the National Park Service’s website to find out more information about each national park’s rules regarding cremation ash scattering.

Private Property

There are no laws that prevent you from scattering cremains on private property. However, if the private property is not your own, you must obtain consent before you scatter cremains.

Public Property

It may be legal to spread ashes on public property. First, you will need to check to see if the land is indeed public. Second, determine if your state has regulations concerning scattering ashes on public lands or if you need to get permission. If you find it is allowed, it’s important to be considerate. Scatter the ashes away from busy trails and places that have a lot of foot traffic.

Stadiums, Golf Courses and Amusement Parks

Your favorite golf course, amusement park, or stadium may be funded in part by tax dollars; however, this does not mean it is public property. If you find it is private property, you will need to get permission from the organization that owns or manages the property. These requests are likely to be denied. Individuals caught scattering ashes illegally without permission may face criminal charges.


If you would like to scatter a loved one’s remains in a cemetery, it’s important to find out if the graveyard is on public or private property. Again, private properties require permission or permits for ash scattering. If the cemetery is on public property, you’ll need to ask the town or city that manages the property about any laws or regulations that may prohibit scattering ashes on the land.

Generally, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Before scattering cremains in a specific area, do your research to avoid problems and/or unwanted ramifications.

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