How to Build a Dry Rock Stream

Dry rock stream through grass yard

A dry rock stream, or dry creek, gives your yard a distinctive feature. This is a lovely focal point for any outdoor space, something to add to the overall look of your landscaping. But dry rock streams also serve a very practical purpose that can actually help all of your lawn and garden areas look much better and stay much healthier. Creating one of these dry streams is something you can do on your own with the right time and effort. And when you're done, you'll have a practical garden solution that becomes a water feature, too.

Pretty Drainage Ditch

By any fancy name, a dry creek is actually a nice-looking drainage ditch. But when it's done well, your dry rock stream won't look like a drainage ditchit will look like a natural water feature instead. A dry rock stream is a practical lawn feature that's literally hiding in plain sight. The dry creek directs and diverts water to prevent it from standing and puddling in your yard, overwhelming areas of your yard and ultimately doing damage. Meanwhile, it winds through your property like a natural feature.

Even if you don't have regular drainage problems in your yard, a dry rock stream can be useful. This will help keep your yard and landscaping areas healthy even when heavy rains fall and it helps to prevent flooding and soggy areas all over your property.

Step 1 - Plan and Dig

Flooded lawn

Observe your yard in several different states. Notice your yard when it's dry, and pay attention to any natural dips and depression where water may pool. Examine your yard again after a gentle rain, and see if you can spot any areas where water is gathering. Observe your property again after heavy rain. This will give you an idea of where water is collecting, so you can determine where you need to build your dry rock stream. Place the stream where it will catch the water that's pooling in your yard, but away from heavily-trafficked areas and walking paths.

Once you've planned out where you want to place the stream, dig a trench 12 to 15 inches deep and just as wide as you want. This can be done with a shovel, but this is pretty labor-intensive when done this way. Consider renting a backhoe to get the job done more quickly, or hire a professional excavator to dig the trench.

Step 2 - Prepare the Bed

After the trench is dug, walk the length of it and stomp around. You may look quite odd doing this, but you need to tamp down the ground and make sure the trench is settled and firm before you move on to the next step. Once you're ready, cover the inside of the trench with landscape fabric. This will keep weeds from growing in your dry rock stream, which will save you a lot of back-breaking weed-pulling in the future.

Step 3 - Place the Rocks

Crushed white pea gravel

Add gravel to the length of the bottom of the trench. Crushed pea gravel works well for this. It should cover the trench to a depth of about one-half inch. Once the gravel is in place, you can add some decorative river rocks. Use rocks in varying sizes to create a natural look. This is the fun part; you can place river rocks according to your own taste to make the dry rock stream look just as you wish. You'll need help to place larger rocks in the dry stream. Don't attempt to lift more than what you can reasonably carry.

Dry Stream

Your dry rock stream won’t always be dry. When rains fall, that decorative drainage ditch will fill up and become a water feature. Add some curves to your dry rock stream when digging the trench and place river rocks strategically to create a feature that looks completely natural. Your dry rock stream won’t just be a perfect drainage solution, it will become an amazing feature of your property.