Scattering Laws

The following are some of the rules and guidelines pertaining to scattering in various states.

Note that this is not a complete list of all relevant rules and regulations. Those wishing to scatter cremated remains on public or private property should contact the appropriate landowner and/or governing body to determine applicable laws and restrictions. 

Alabama

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Alaska

  • There are no areas within the Joshua Tree park designated for scattering human ashes from cremation. This is necessary to ensure that modern cremated remains do not contaminate the park’s numerous archeological sites.

Arizona

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Arkansas

  • Ashes can legally be scattered in and around waterways in the state.

California

  • Permit is required from the branch of the California Department of Health located within the county where you plan to scatter the ashes - called a Permit for Disposition.
  • Person who will handle the ashes during the scattering must be identified.
  • Scattering ceremonies over land and water will require boating or pilot licenses from the vehicle boat or airplane operators.
  • The ashes must be scattered within two months or 60 days from the time the body was cremated.
  • Scatterers must be 500 yards from shore to scatter in the ocean or on inland navigable waters.

Colorado

  • The Forest Service, which controls a great deal of Colorado land, prohibits commercial enterprises from scattering ashes.

Connecticut

  • No scattering of remains from the air may be performed over developed areas, facilities, or bodies of water.

Delaware

  • No published restrictions or laws.

District of Columbia

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Florida

  • It is illegal in Florida to spread cremated ashes near or on public lands. This regulation includes public parks, city streets, town squares, monuments and other such areas where the public has a legal right to visit. However, this regulation does not apply to national parks in Florida, and it often is possible to get permission to spread ashes there.
  • Scattering of ashes in a public waterway also is illegal in Florida, to ensure that people cannot accidentally ingest particles of human remains. Since much fresh drinking water comes from rivers, lakes, streams and connected tributaries, these bodies of water all are off limits in Florida. However, you can scatter ashes in the ocean. 

Georgia

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Hawaii

  • Ashes may not be dispersed within a state forest reserve or watershed area, nor on state or federal property.
  • Out of courtesy for other ocean users, please disperse remains at sea beyond the reef line. Loose flowers should be scattered instead of leis, as marine animals could become sick from eating the strings of the leis.
  • If a large event is planned for scattering of ashes, please contact Division of Boating and Ocean Recreation at 587-1963 in advance (14 days in advance, if possible) for an ocean event permit. There is no cost. The purpose is to assure that ocean uses do not conflict at a given time or location.

Idaho

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Illinois

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Indiana

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Iowa

  • The scattering of cremated remains on public land or waterways in Iowa is forbidden by law.

Kansas

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Kentucky

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Louisiana

  • The cremated remains of more than one person cannot be commingled unless they are scattered by air or at sea. However, cremated remains may be commingled when scattered on private property.

Maine

  • The scattering of remains from the air is to be performed at a minimum altitude of 2000 feet above the ground.

Maryland

  • Scattering on public land or waters is prohibited in Maryland.

Massachusetts

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Michigan

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Minnesota

  • No specific laws governing the scattering of cremated remains in the state of Minnesota and no laws that forbid scattering the remains on or in public waterways. Once the cremated remains are returned to the family, it is not necessary for any permits.

Mississippi

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Missouri

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Montana

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Nebraska

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Nevada

  • A permit is required for the scattering of cremated human remains in Death Valley National Park

New Jersey

  • For inland water burials, such as in lakes, rivers, etc., a permit is needed prior to the disposal of ashes. Check with the state park where the body of water is located and apply for a permit

New Hampshire

  • No published restrictions or laws.

New Mexico

  • New Mexico State law forbids scattering of cremated remains in State Parks or on public lands without a permit

New York

  • No published restrictions or laws.

North Carolina

  • Cremated remains may be scattered over uninhabited public land, a public waterway or sea.

North Dakota

  • No published restrictions or laws.

North Dakota

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Ohio

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Oklahoma

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Oregon

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Pennsylvania

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Rhode Island

  • No published restrictions or laws.

South Dakota

  • Any person who scatters human remains needs to file with the local registrar of births and deaths in the county nearest the point where the cremated remains are to be scattered.

South Carolina

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Tennessee

  • Air scattering is not allowed over The Great Smoky Mountains National Park due to noise restrictions for aircraft.

Texas

  • Ocean Scattering: Texas law requires that unless the remains are to be released in a biodegradable container, they must be removed prior to release.

Utah

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Vermont

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Virginia

  • No published restrictions or laws.

West Virginia

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Wyoming

  • No published restrictions or laws.

Washington

  • Scattering on public navigable waterways under state control is allowed. These include Puget Sound, rivers, streams and lakes, and the Pacific Ocean (within a three-mile limit).
  • Scattering remains on bodies of water in national parks requires permission from the Chief Park Ranger. Scattering on waters in state trust uplands requires permission from regional managers. Commercial entities are not allowed to scatter remains on state trust uplands.

Wisconsin

  • Wisconsin law allows you to scatter cremation remains without permission anywhere except on a cemetery or private property.

General Rules to Follow

Private Property

Owner permission is required for scattering on private property. In order to scatter ashes at a cemetery, permission is required. There are usually designated areas for the burying or scattering of ashes.

Government-Controlled Properties

Most government lands require the purchase of special permits.

There are many state and national parks which allow for the scattering of ashes. If the scattering of ashes is permitted at the desired location, a site representative will give instructions on all appropriate steps to be taken. This usually includes applying and paying for a special permit. Once the permit has been obtained, only then may the ashes be scattered. This process will take considerable planning.

In public parks or other places where no specific procedures exist, ashes should be scattered at least 100 yards from public roads or trails. Because human ashes are white and highly visible, it is recommended that they be given a shallow burial rather than left in a pile.

Unless otherwise approved, no permanent memorials or markers may be left on public property.

Ocean Scattering

If you are planning to drop the cremated ashes in an urn to the ocean, the urn must be released at least 3 miles from the coastline. The standard rule for spreading a person's ashes is 500 yards from shore. 

Air Scattering

Air scatterings by airplane or helicopter are valid options in most areas.

General Guidelines

If your scattering ceremony is to be held within a city or town limits, city/town ordinance and bylaws should be consulted. If your scattering ceremony is to be held outside of city or town limits then municipal or county ordinance and bylaws should be consulted.

There are no "cremains police" in any state to ensure proper etiquette, permits, or permission are obtained and used. There are no health or safety issues to be concerned about. Use your own common sense.

Scattering cremated ashes is generally a small, private ritual, held away from high visitor-use areas so as not to attract attention that might spoil a highly personal moment.

Be advised that the crematory will most likely have a metal identification tag inside the cremated remains container, which should be removed prior to scattering.

 Call 1-800-270-7696  or complete the form to the left for a free copy of our helpful guide “Cremation and Scattering” for more information