What is a dry creek bed?
Dry creek beds are a good solution for drainage and erosion problems, but they do not completely solve them because water goes where it wants. Water tends to take the path of least resistance.
The three main essential components to a dry creek bed are location, the size of the channel, and where the dry creek flows.
Ineffective dry creek beds
This example shows that there is a berm (high spot) on the top part of the dry creek bed, damming the water and not functioning. The high spot is blocking the water flow – see arrow on the picture below.
The following picture shows a flat-looking group of stones. Water will not flow to the stones just because they are stones.
Effective dry creek beds
They need to be deep. Shallow trenches will fill up with dirt and be totally useless in a very short period of time. We usually dig a 1′ deep swale (ditch/trench), 2′-3’ wide to encourage the water to flow there.
The dry creek bed for roof overflow, as seen above, is to handle the high rains from a huge roof that overflows the gutters and creates an erosion channel in the ground. We initially thought our client’s erosion problems were created by gutters that needed cleaning. However, come to find out, her gutters were clean and it was just because of so much heavy rainfall. Gutters can handle much of the rain, but when we get 1″-2” per hour of rainfall, gutters can’t keep up. Thus, this dry creek bed was installed.
Maintaining your dry creek bed
Over time, dry creek beds can fill with leaves and silt. They need to be kept clear of debris to function, at least once or twice a year. Water goes where it wants to go. As soon as you have created a dry creek bed in one area, the water can often migrate to other areas. Sometimes it needs to be completely redone – remove the stones, dig a deeper trench, rearrange, and replace the stones.
Dry creek beds designed well, are aesthetically pleasing. They should mimic streams in nature, with a variety of sized rocks, and types of rocks. Plants alongside help slow down water and absorb some of it, as well as creating even more beauty.