Dry Stone Walls.

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In Columbus Ohio, there are stretches of low stone walls along the Scioto River that extend for miles.  These structures are by no means unique to the area; New England in particular has plenty of such fences in the United States.  The United Kingdom has many such old historical structures.

I’ve seen these low walls for many years, and decided to look up information about them.

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The one thing you notice about these stone walls is that they have no mortar between the stones.  This is called a dry stone wall.

A dry stone wall, also known as a dry stone dyke, drystane dyke, dry stone hedge, rock fence, or stone fence, is a wall constructed from stones without mortar to bind them together.  As with any dry stone construction, the structural integrity arises from compressional forces and the interlocking of the stones. Such walls are used in building construction, as field boundaries, and on steep slopes as retaining walls for terracing.

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Dry stone walls such as these have been used for centuries to mark off one farm field from another.  In areas with stony ground, this is particularly useful.  These particular walls are used as pleasant ornamental formations.

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These walls are made by putting together layers of overlapping stone that fit together using gravity to bind them.  Limestone or shale are natural building materials for these formations.  There are organizations dedicated to continuing the craft that goes into making and repairing these structures, which if constructed well, can last for a century or two without significant repair.  Not bad for piling stones upon each other!

Here’s an interesting article on the subject:

How to Build a Dry Stone Wall (Mother Earth News)

Edit: this song brings to mind such closeness with nature that we used to have:

The farmer working in the fields
before the sunrise,
the inland navigators heading
for the far skies.

Up on the hills amid the silence
of the high moors,
down in the valleys, by the rivers
and the dry stone walls.

That is where you will find them
out there, working by the hedgerows.
In the rain and the snowfall
you’ll find them
out there, high against the skyline.
In the mines and the headings
you’ll find them, down there
dreaming of the daylight.

The line will hold;
the mark of man
upon the land;
the inland navigators
reaching for the far skies.

-Big Big Train, The Permanent Way


  1. We have them in our area, they’re usually in an area where an encampment was made or a battle was fought during the Civil war. Until your blog-post, I hadn’t realized there was any in Ohio.
    Truly it would have been handy building a stone wall while clearing stones from a field or pasture. They are definitely long lasting lot markers to property lines.
    Thanks for sharing this interesting info and for sharing your great photos. 🙂


  2. I’m always amazed by the industriousness of our ancestors. Have you ever tried to clear even a garden spot of stones? Those walls are so beautiful! We have a natural stone retaining wall down our driveway that WAS mortared together, and it cracked and fell apart. The dry stone is a much better way of doing it. Easier to repair as well. Great photos!


  3. We have many stone walls where our “cabin up north” is. They are built with round stones though pulled out of farm fields. Otherwise people leave big stone piles, that others pilfer from and create some occasional neighbor problems 😉


  4. I’ve built quite a few dry stone walls but I’ve never seen the stones stacked as they are on the top of the one in your photos. It might have been done to keep people from sitting on it, though farmers didn’t used to worry about such things.


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