How I Built a Rock Riverbed Run-off Trench

Lisa Jane Long
by Lisa Jane Long
6 Materials
2 Days

My house doesn't have rain gutters, so on the rare occasion that it rains heavily, the water runs off the roof and pools up around our back patio. I thought it might be cool to dig a run-off trench and incorporate it into my plans for my 2019 landscaping project. Read on to find out how I built this rock riverbed run-off trench! It looks AMAZING!

First day of digging...oh boy.

I've known for months that this was something I wanted to do, but I had to wait for a decent rain for the ground to be soft enough to dig. The vision in my head was to have a footbridge to cross the trench...and out of the blue, a rancher friend of mine asked me if I would like to have a footbridge. WHAT? ARE YOU PRANKING ME? HOW DID YOU KNOW I WANTED A FOOTBRIDGE????? (It was more than irony, it was FATE!) Yes! Of course I want a footbridge! So, he built this simple bridge with three planks of horse fencing and two cross pieces.

Weeks later it finally rained, and I started digging.

I spread my digging over 2 days, but all in all it took me about 3 hours to dig out approximately 12 feet to the downhill slope. The trench is about 16 inches wide. (My flat head shovel and I are best buds...we have accomplished many projects together.)

Here is the view of my trench from the bottom of the slope. At first I thought I would buy river rock at Home Depot to fill the trench, but I have lots of beautiful, natural rock and broken down boulders on my property, so I decided to "harvest" rock instead of spending money. In the end, I think it turned out better.

Filling the trench with rock.

To secure my bridge, I dug holes for the footings on each side of the trench and then buried them with the loose dirt.

Although I liked the rustic look of the natural wood, I'm a sucker for staining. So I gave my bridge a coat of kona stain.

After hours of digging and lugging rock, I was exhausted...but I was not done! I gave myself a few days of rest and recovery, then I made a trip to Home Depot and bought some Alyssum flowers. I ended up spending about $50 on them, but luckily I had gotten a gift card for Christmas, so it didn't hurt my wallet. On our property, we have a bad have a rabbit problem, but Alyssums are stinky and the rabbits tend to not eat them. I planted the flowers on the outside edges of the trench between the rocks...I'm stoked the way it turned out!

Here's another view of my finished trench and footbridge.

If you'd like to read the full story of the Rock Riverbed Run-off Trench, you can find it on my blog. Thank you for reading, I look forward to sharing more about my landscaping projects this year!

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Lisa Jane Long
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  • Nancy Nancy on Jan 08, 2019

    I have something similar where my downspout and sump pump empty .My lawn slops and the water follows the rocks to the edging onto my sidewalk- like a backwards C instead of to the end of rocks and the lowered stone edging. I am unable to build up the sloping. Any ideas before spring????

  • Jojo Jojo on Jan 08, 2019

    Great job! You totally ROCK! lol Have you thought about adding a rain chain to serve as a guide for the water coming from the roof? They can make beautiful music in the rain. I did the same thing at my home where we had a problem "corner" where the water just seemed to pool. I believe it was a boulder in the ground that was causing the problem since we seem to grow rocks and boulders like crazy. However, I did lay down some know, the black fabric that the landscapers often use to control weeds, but I used it to control any future erosion. Works like a charm! I love the look of a dry riverbed. So much prettier and natural. Bet the bunnies enjoy the new riverbed too! ;-)

  • Jane Doe Jane Doe on Jan 08, 2019

    What's to stop the dirt from eroding under the rock?

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  • Julie Julie on Nov 04, 2019


  • BrokeCrazyLady BrokeCrazyLady on Oct 28, 2020

    I really hope you didn't leave that wonderful naturally shaped heart rock (In the bottom center of your image labeled 'filling the trench with rock') in your trench instead of using it as a beautiful stepping stone.