Rangers are systemically removing cairns left behind by travellers out in nature. This ever-growing problem did not start yesterday, and rangers are witnessing new mounds being placed every day in Vatnajökull national park, for example. Rangers state that they disrupt the natural look of the country and that it is important to educate people on the matter.
Many rangers have started to call the stone mounds ‘tourist warts’. Helga Árnadóttir, a ranger in the south part of Vatnajökull national park, says that it is safe to call it a plague at this point in time. She states that the problem isn’t new and that there’s not really one reason for travellers putting them up. People seem to instantly build up a mound from rocks which they find on their way, and that there’s always a danger that when one mound is placed, others will follow.
The rangers working in the national park work hard to disassemble the mounds as they are not part of the natural landscape which travellers have come to see, and especially not within nature reserves. By placing the mounds, travellers are putting a human touch on a natural area. In fact, visitors in nature reserves are prohibited from disrupting the natural landscape in any way. Furthermore, displacing stones can leave ugly open sores in grown land.
In centuries past, mounds served the purpose to direct travellers and those mounds are considered cultural relics today. Many of those directional mounds still serve that purpose today to direct travellers in the highlands.
The Environmental Agency of Iceland shed a light on this persistent problem on its Facebook page when it told the story of ranger Helena. Helena, who is a ranger in Þjórsárdalur, removed a mound close to Hjálparfoss waterfall. The mound was made up of 3219 stones in total and it took Helena an hour and eighteen minutes to disassemble the whole mount. Once she had removed them all, the area gained back its natural outlook.
“Let’s defend the country together. Let’s not build unnecessary mounds and let’s encourage others not to do so,” part of the status read.
We ask travellers and hikers to respect nature and leave it as it was. If you intend to travel to Iceland, please take a look at the Icelandic Tourist Pledge – https://www.inspiredbyiceland.com/icelandicpledge/