Constructing a Dry Creek Bed

A dry creek bed. (Courtesy: Kiefer Landscaping at

A dry creek bed.
(Courtesy: Kiefer Landscaping at

In the last few blogs for I have discussed in general how to manage drainage problems on your lawn and have talked more specifically about methods you can use to alleviate drainage issues by creating a rain garden or constructing a French drain system.

Another method you can use to deal with drainage problems on your property is to construct a dry creek bed. Ideal for properties that have slopes, a dry creek bed is basically a channel through which excess water can flow from one portion of a lawn to another.

Not only is a dry creek bed functional in dealing with your drainage issues, it can also provide additional interest to a property. It can be very attractive having a flowing creek meandering across your property immediately after a heavy rain.

Tools and materials you need include:

· Landscape paint
· Landscape fabric
· Fabric pins or garden staples
· River rocks and boulders
· Shovel
· Tamping tool

Planning the Construction

Before starting work on the project you first have to plan the route of the dry creek bed. Generally speaking, the course of a dry creek bed is down a slope. You can mark the course with landscaping paint. How the creek bed flows is up to you. You can have it run straight. However, a meandering course would look more natural.

If the top of the slope where you intend to locate the bed has a landscape drainage pipe, then it is obvious that the start of the bed should be located right under the pipe.

However, if you don’t have such a pipe, then you have more freedom concerning location. Many who have created dry creek beds have made it look natural by bending it out from behind a large boulder or from some plants.

You can channel the bed toward the street. But that could cause all sorts of problems because you will have to consult with local government to get permission to build the channel. If you think that is the way to go despite having to deal with the government, then get written permission from the authorities and obtain any permits that are required.

You can channel the bed to a location on your property where drainage is better or you can construct a pond and funnel the water to it.

Depth and width of the creek bed really shouldn’t be a major concern. After all natural creeks are not one particular dimension. Still, there still are some rules.

Dry creek beds tend to be wider than they are deep. People who have constructed these things suggest a ratio of 2:1 –- three-feet wide and 1-1/2-feet deep (as an example).

Use the landscape paint to plan out the course of the creek bed.

Building the Bed

How difficult it will be to dig out the soil depends on whether there are roots and rocks along the route. Dig out the path of the creek bed and mound the soil up along the sides of the creek bed as you go. Use the tamping tool to pack down the soil that is within the bed.

After the trench has been formed, lay down the landscape fabric the length of the excavation. The fabric should not only be covering the channel area, but also the mounds of dirt on the sides. Use the fabric pins or garden staples to hold the fabric in place.

Now it is time to place the rocks. It is suggested that you use large stones that are too heavy to wash away. Use rocks of different shapes and sizes. However, many people who have made dry creek beds have preferred using round so-called river rocks. This gives the creek a natural look when water is actually flowing through it. Place small river rocks in the center of the trench and place the larger rocks on the sides of the bed so that they can channel the water and offer visual interest. Locate the big boulders at the biggest bends in the creek and to hide the “headwater” or source of the stream.

Give the creek bed a little more visual attractiveness with flowers planted along the edges.

About Robert Janis

Written by Robert Janis for LawnEq - Your specialists for Lawn Mower Parts and Small Engine Parts. We offer genuine premium OEM parts for Land Pride, Toro and many more dependable manufacturers.