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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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