What Is A Dry Creek Bed: Tips On Creating A Dry Creek Bed For Drainage

What Is A Dry Creek Bed: Tips On Creating A Dry Creek Bed For Drainage

By: Mary H. Dyer, Credentialed Garden Writer

What is a dry creek bed and why should you consider creating one in your yard? A dry creek bed, also known as a dry stream bed, is a gully or trench, usually lined with stones and edged with plants to mimic a natural riparian area. You may decide to implement dry stream beds for drainage, thus preventing erosion by reducing runoff. On the other hand, you may simply like the way it looks! Read on to learn about creating a dry creek bed in the landscape.

How to Build a Dry Creek Bed

There are a myriad of dry creek bed ideas to be found, so finding something that suits your particular needs or interest shouldn’t be difficult. That said, a few basic guidelines will help make the process an easier one.

First, map out your dry creek bed, making it follow an existing slope as it meanders through your landscape like a natural stream. Consider where the water flows during a heavy rainfall or snow melt and be sure not to direct the water to a street, toward your house, or onto your neighbor’s property.

Once you’ve determined the path of the stream, mark the edges with landscaping paint. Remove existing vegetation and dig your dry creek bed, then line the bed with landscape fabric held in place with landscape pins. As a general rule, streams are about twice as wide as the depth, so a dry creek bed measuring 4 feet (1 m.) across would be about 2 feet (61 cm.) deep.

Mound the excavated soil around the sides of the creek to create a natural appearance, or transfer it to soil-challenged areas in your landscape. Cover the bed with a thick layer of gravel or coarse sand, then spread river rocks of various sizes and shapes down the length of the creek bed so they look like Mother Nature placed them there (Hint: laying them on their sides will make it appear as running water). Bury larger rocks partially so they look more natural.

Some people like to mortar river rocks in place, but most find that this step isn’t necessary unless you expect rushing waters to run through your creek.

Once you’ve finished creating a dry creek bed, plant native shrubs, ornamental grass or flowers along the banks and disguise the “headwaters” with large boulders or plants. Interesting dry creek bed ideas also include logs, stepping stones or wooden bridges. Moss adds a natural element if your dry creek bed is in the shade.

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The What, Where, Why, and How Of Installing a Dry Creek Bed to Solve Your Drainage Problems…

A dry creek bed is an effective drainage solution, but it can also be an attractive landscape feature that needs very little maintenance. It’s a form of hardscaping, a non-organic landscape design element. If you have water pooling in your yard, a Dry Creek Bed may be a perfect solution for you. The following will give you what, where, why, and how to install a dry creek bed….

31 Beautiful Dry River Bed Ideas

Precious Pebbles

Gray Pebble Walk

Pebbles are a classic choice when creating a dry river bed and ark and light gray pebbles contrast beautifully with green plants. Place larger stones along the sides to define the riverbed. If you choose to go for dark-colored pebbles, make sure you add a few light-toned stones on the side, for a bright look. Take a look at this idea from

Curvy Course

Pebbles are made smooth and round by the action of water, so they’re a perfect match for dry river beds. You can use beige and white pebbles if you prefer lighter tones and they go exceptionally well with the green grass, dark mulch, or black rock mulch around the dry river bed. Check out this design from

Rocky Roads

Tan Cobbles

River cobbles come in many different sizes and shapes. When various stones are combined, they create a perfectly natural look. If you’re aiming for a warm looking dry river, opt for a mixture of tan and gray rocks. Plant colorful flowers on the side for a picture perfect dry river bed. Learn more about how to create a dry river bed using cobbles from

Lush Green

Nothing looks more serene than granitic rocks resting between green bushes. You can grow all different kinds of plants around the dry river, depending on the weather conditions and nature of the soil in your garden.

Make sure you keep the dry river narrow with many plants on either edge if you want the green grass and plants to dominate. Discover all about rocky dry river beds at

Rocks And Stones

This dry river bed design is best used in larger yards. If you have a rather large backyard, you can try this layout using big, smooth rocks along the side of the river bed. Curve the path and then fill it with rocks and stones of different sizes and textures. Check out for more details on how to create this look.

Blossoms All The Way

Flower Aisle

Nothing complements a blossoming flowerbed more than a dry river bed. If your garden has flowerbeds, a simple yet charming dry river bed is a great idea. Make sure you use simple pebbles or rocks of the same color and size, so they don’t overshadow your flowers. Get some inspiration from

Rock Line

Looking to line your entire garden with a dry river bed but don’t want to overdo it? Go with a simple design like this one, with simple, neutral-colored stones. Use an assortment of rocks and pebbles and line the river bed with larger stones. Check out this idea from

Space Saver

You may not have much space in your yard, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have a dry river bed. Small river beds look fantastic and solve drainage problems. Keep it classic with small rocks and a few small bushes around it. Take a look at this dry river bed from

Less Is More

No one will notice your drainage canal if it’s in a beautiful dry river bed! Use smooth pebbles for the border and different stones and a few small plants to fill up the bed. If you want to get fancy, add a spotlight for a beautiful night view. Learn more about how to do this at

Stepping Stones

Channel excess water with this simple dry river bed idea. To achieve this design, use small-sized pebbles of the same color and add a kick with square-shaped stones. Get inspired by

Glass River Beds

Sparkly Garden

If you’re looking for a unique dry river bed idea, this is the one. Use recycled colored glass pebbles to fill up your creek and line pebbles on the sides. Add a fancy fountain along the way. Check this out at

Mini Town

Blue glass pebbles give this dry river bed a pop of color. Feel free to get creative with mini figurines and sculptures, like boats, houses, benches, and others. Throw in some succulents even if you live in a colder climate – some of these pretty plants can survive even in zone 7.​

Blue Lake

Missing the lake view? This dry river bed idea resembles a lake, by using two tones of glass pebbles and larger neutral-colored pebbles for the border. You can even add a fake fish or two. Find out more at

Water Pump

Show off your artistic side with this water pump dry river bed. For the water effect, use a fishing line to attach the blue stones. If you want the water to look natural, use different shades of blue glass – you can even spray paint them to get the exact shade you want. Take a look at this dry river bed from

Blue Serenity

This simple dry river bed is so calming to look at. To get this look, place large pebbles along the border and smaller pebbles inside. On the corner, you can add a statement pot and use blue glass pebbles for a flowing water effect. Learn how to do it from

Cross The River

Glossy Bridge

Another great addition to your dry river bed is a bridge. Why not add a polished stone across your dry river bed for an edgy look? Use pebbles to fill up the creek and add a unique rock in a constrasting color. Check out more at

Double Up

Why not make use of that extra space and build a long dry river bed with bridges? Use dark mulch around the riverbed and add a few small, green bushes. Include two or more wooden bridges, depending on how long the river is. Take a look at this dry river from

Broad Archway

If you’re interested in creating a wide dry river bed, installing a bridge is a practical thing to do. This bridge, with curved side rails, will give your garden an authentic feel. Make sure you add a pop of color to your garden with flowers. Get more inspiration from

Wooden Bridge

Incorporating a wooden bridge in your dry river bed is a great idea if you’re looking for a rustic look. Line your creek with large stones on the sides and smaller pebbles in the middle. The wooden bridge and the bright green grass are a brilliant match. Check this out at

Classic And Elegant

You can’t go wrong with a classic and elegant wooden bridge. To pull off this idea, all you need are a variety of stones and rocks and a wooden bridge. If you’re looking for an easy-to-do dry river bed landscaping idea, check this one out on

White Vintage

After filling your dry river bed with stones and rocks, go the extra mile and add this classic white bridge, for a vintage look. The striking white bridge and the green grass look gorgeous together. Take a look at this charming bridge at

Pretty Pots

Pouring Pebbles

Creating an artistic display can be easily accomplished using a pot and some pebbles. Place a pot at the starting point of your dry river creek and fill it up with white and gray pebbles that trace all the way to the end. Check out this idea at

Showy Shrub

As if a dry river bed isn’t cool enough already! For this design, you’ll need to plant a green, flowering bush that hugs a pot at the beginning of your creek. Use multicolor pebbles to fill the bed and line it with brown-colored stones. Explore this dry river bed idea at

Shells And Starfish

Who doesn’t like the thought of a mesmerizing beach? Bring that vibe into your yard with this idea. Place a pot with white stones at the end of the creek and scatter a few turquoise shells and starfish. Use brown mulch and rocks on the side to make the white stones pop. Learn more at

Into The Woods

Nature’s Log

Making a statement couldn’t be more simple. Place tree logs on the side of your dry river bed together with cool-toned stones and rocks, for a nature-inspired look. Learn more about this idea at


If you’re looking for an effortless dry river bed landscape, this is the one. Use up some empty space in your yard by filling it with small stones. Load your creek with some pebbles and line it with rocks. For an edgy touch, place a piece or two of driftwood on the sides. Get to know more at

Stylish Stones

Rock River

This landscaping idea is for minimalists. Who knew you could create a fabulous dry river bed using nothing but stones? Perfectly arrange small stones in your creek for a flowing river effect and scatter a few larger rocks around for a natural feel. Take a look at for more inspiration.

Stunning Stones

For this project, you’ll need stones in different shades of beige, gray, black, and brown, to achieve a flawless piece of art. Line the creek with a few unique-looking glossy stones. If you want to get in touch with your inner artist, check out this idea on

Cascading Rocks

If a nature-inspired landscape is what you prefer, try creating a beautiful waterfall effect using stones on two levels. Place some wooden logs between both steps and pebbles along the side to direct the flow of the creek. Learn more about stonework at

Garden Haven

Who knew you could do so much with so little! If you have a multi-level garden, you can create a long, curved stone path using pebbles of various colors, ending in a circular pond-like stone arrangement. Learn more at

Picture Perfect

Your backyard doesn’t have to be green to be charming. Use glossy stones to cover the ground and plan a path for your dry river bed. Fill it with dazzling stones in a matching color and you can even go the extra mile by creating a spiral of stones. Add some bigger rocks and you’re good to go. Find more inspiration at

Step 3


Close up of dry creek weed fabric laying on the ground on this episode of Yard Crashers.


Close up of dry creek weed fabric being cut to fit the creek area on this back yard landscape on Yard Crashers.

Install Weed Fabric

Line the inside of the creek with weed fabric to prevent weeds from popping up (Image 1). Cut out sections so that it goes right up to and around the boulders, overlapping it for complete coverage (Image 2).

Jan at The Golden State Newspaper explains the importance of installing a dry river bed and why you should think about doing to the same thing. This photo will inspire you to get started on your next task. Take a look.

Married to Plants shares a detailed tutorial with tons of photos on how you can make your dream of a dry creek a reality. You are going to want to look at this here.

Watch the video: Dry Creek Bed!