This dry stream bed looks so natural, you'd think it had always been part of the landscape. Watch drainage woes disappear when you make this water-diverting, eye-catching feature in your yard.

dry creek landscaping rocks sculpture home

A dry creek handles a common landscape challenge—drainage—with an easy-does-it approach that fits most budgets. In some situations, a dry creek simply directs and disperses water that would normally puddle and stand a few days. In other cases, a dry bed transforms into a temporary stream. In the process, it adds beauty to the setting, whether wet or dry. If your yard is plagued with a soggy area after downpours or a slope that's slowly eroding, a dry creek corrals and redirects water. By creating a channel, a dry creek drains water when insufficient slope fails to do so.

Improve poor lawn drainage with these tips.

Construction is the easy part. Careful planning ensures the design's success. A dry creek may be as large or small as your yard permits. Look for the natural lay of the land in your yard and watch how water flows during a heavy rainfall.

Before digging, make sure you understand elevations and which way you're directing water, especially if the dry creek will be near existing structures. Drain water away from the house and direct runoff into a landscape drainage system, such as a French drain, swale, or channel, on your property. Don't assume you can direct water into a public street without researching local ordinances.

See how to add drainage to your yard here.

  • Working time 8 hrs
  • Start to finish 8 hrs
  • Difficulty Kind of Easy
  • Involves Excavating

What you need


How to do it

Part 1

dry creek illustration how-to digging trench with shovel backhoe
Step 1

Excavate Site

Evaluate your yard to determine the location and size of your dry stream. After determining the size and shape of the dry stream bed, excavate 12-15 inches of soil. This can be done with a backhoe or a shovel.

dry creek illustration how-to tamping down on bed
Step 2

Place Landscape Fabric

Tamp the ground firm to create a flat surface with angled sides. Then place landscape fabric over the entire surface, including the angled sides. This will prevent weeds from popping through.

dry creek illustration how-to shovel rock onto soil
Step 3

Lay Gravel

Cover the bottom and the sloping sides of the stream bed with 1/2-inch of crushed pea gravel. The sharp edges of the gravel will keep it from migrating when it rains or when someone walks on it.

dry creek illustration how-to place rocks on bank
Step 4

Add River Rock Edges

For a natural look, add river rock along the edges of the dry steam bed. Use various sizes, from 2 to 8 inches in length. You can create a single row of rocks or a larger border with a few rows.

Editor's Tip
Consider Color

In addition to size, consider the rock's color. A monochromatic look will give your yard a different vibe than a blend of neutrals. 

dry creek illustration how-to place concrete for stones
Step 5

Add Bridge Supports

Position four large flat-top rocks so they can support a flagstone bridge. Anchor the rocks in place with cement so they won't move with freezing and thawing. Then place the large flagstone piece on the supports.

Comments (1)

How difficult was this project?
September 5, 2018
I took my time because of the rainy days here. But it was pretty easy, I had my 19 yr. Old sons help with moving the rock's into place with me. I live the look of it, it truly added to my homes curb appeal. But it's not a project to do alone. You need 2 people to hold the fabric or plastic into place when staking it down, and moving rock's into place helps too. Have fun...

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