DIY Guide to Build a Dry Creek

Dry creeks are basically natural-looking stream beds that beautifully improve landscape visuals. If you’re unhappy with drainage status, dry creeks will be the answer. They divert water perfectly and look amazing at the same time.

Drainage is a common landscape problem which can be easily solved by a dry creek. This set-up is not only easy and inexpensive, but also solves the issues effectively. For some lawns, a dry creek will disperse excess water and prevent it from puddling and getting contaminated. Generally, dry surfaces will act as a temporary stream, creating an artificial spring-like element and naturally beautifying the yard. If you’re struggling with soaked earth after a rainfall or erosion around the slopes, don’t hesitate to build a dry creek. The channel structure of creeks will sufficiently gather the water when the soil is too saturated to absorb moisture anymore.

The key to build a successful and functional dry creek, is accurate and careful designing. Construction will be piece of cake once the design is done. Size of dry creek depends on your lawn. During the next rainfall, watch the natural lay of land in your yard and carefully observe the direction of water flowing.

Take enough time to understand altitudes and decide which way you want the water to flow. This is particularly important when dry creek is meant to be built beside pre-existing constructions. Just as French grooves, swales or channels work, aim to drain the water away from your properties and lead it to the landscape drainage. Before you let the excess water flow into the public street, do some research and see if the local regulations allow that.

  • Working time 8 hrs
  • Start to finish 8 hrs
  • Difficulty Kind of easy

You Will Need:


  • Backhoe
  • Shovel
  • Tamper


  • Landscape fabric
  • Crushed pea gravel
  • River rock, various sizes
  • Large flat-top rocks
  • Mixed cement

Step by Step Tutorial

Step 1

Excavate Site

Check the lawn area and decide the size and location of your dry creek and consider a shape accordingly. After determination of size and position, use a backhoe or shovel and dig 12 to 15 inches of soil.

Create a Dry Creek
Dry Creek

Step 2

Place Landscape Fabric

Pat the ground firm and create a flat surface with angled sides. Drape landscape fabric all over the surface and make sure to cover the sides. This will prevent weed growth in the creek.

Dry Creek

Step 3

Lay Gravel

Cover the bottom and sides of creek bed with crushed pea gravel till it reaches half an inch in depth. The sharp-edged gravels will remain in place during heavy water flow or being walked over.

Step 4

Add River Rock Edges

River rocks aligned on the edge will give the creek a natural look. Collect rocks of various sizes; those with 2 to 8 inches in diameter will work just fine. Try creating a multi-row border or just go plain and align a single row border along the edge.

Create a Dry Creek

Step 5

Add Bridge Supports

To support the curbstone bridge, place four large rocks with smooth top surfaces around the border. Use cement to adhere the rocks in place and prevent displacement. Next, place the large curbstones on the supporting portions.

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