The scattering of cremated remains or ashes is a common choice for residents of Washington State. Generally cremated remains may be scattered on any navigible waterway or on land with the permission of the landowner.
Regardless of where cremated remains are scattered, there is a simple protocol to follow–Only scatter the ashes. Do not drop or throw the urn into a body of water, unless it is made of a certified biodegradable material. Remove the metal identification disc from inside the urn and the identification label from the outside. Dispose of metal disc, plastic bag, bag closure, label and urn separately in the trash.
Scattering on Land
- Cremated remains may be scattered on privately-owned land with the permission of the landowner
- Cremated remains may be scattered in national parks with permission from the chief park ranger.
- Scattering on state trust uplands requires permission from regional managers. Commercial entities are not allowed to scatter remains on state trust uplands.
Cremated remains may be scattered on all public navigable waterways in Washington State. These include Puget Sound, rivers, streams, lakes, and the Pacific Ocean within a three-mile limit. No reporting is required.
Water Scattering from Washington State Ferries
Advance notice and booking 3-5 business days prior to a planned date is required for scattering cremated remains from Washington State Ferry vessels.
Cremated remains must be contained in a certified biodegradable container that can be dropped intact from a ferry. Such containers are typically made of a paper product and are designed to dissolve quickly after contact with water. These urns can be purchased from most funeral homes or online.
Bookings are made only during limited and specific non-peak sailing times and are not offered during holidays or on all routes. If you make arrangements with Washington State Ferries for a shipboard memorial, they will send written notice of your planned arrival to the vessel officers ahead of time.
Once onboard and the ferry is underway, a member of your party should contact a crewmember who will speak with the Captain to verify whether the scattering would be safe weather-wise and operationally permissible.
If the Captain approves, your group will be led down to the aft end of the auto deck. A crewmember will accompany one person from your group beyond the restricted area to insure their safety while the biodegradable container is dropped into the water. At the Captain’s discretion, the ferry’s horn may be sounded as or after the container has been released.
At this time there is no charge for this service. The only costs are standard ferry tolls.
For more information or to make arrangements with Washington State Ferries for such a service, please call Administrative Manager, Jim Fletcher at (206) 264-3554 or Staff Aide Johanna Karlin at (206) 264-3556.
Scattering remains in the Pacific Ocean beyond a three-mile limit requires reporting within 30 days to Region 10 of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The report can be emailed or filed online. If you have questions, contact Chris Meade at email@example.com or 907-586-7622
If you do not have access to a boat or airplane, there are licensed services that will scatter cremated remains for you from the air or on water for a specified fee. For a higher fee, there are also charter airplane and boat services where a small party of people may accompany the urn and witness the scattering by air or water.