10 Dry Creek Bed Landscaping Ideas

Whether you call them dry stream, creek or river beds, these rock and boulder landscape elements divert water and look lovely doing it.

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Sloped Yard Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy @tracysbytheyard/instagram

Sloped Yard Dry Creek Bed

A dry creek bed is the perfect solution for a sloped yard, like this California property designed by @tracysbytheyard. Varying sizes of rocks and large boulders simulate the look of a real creek bed. The bordering plants (yarrow, limonium, rosemary, and foxtail fern) provide a lush look, yet are easy to maintain and drought tolerant.

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River Rock Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy @sarabendrick/instagram

River Rock Dry Creek Bed

Dry creek beds can be created with all different kinds of stones and rocks. But according to @sarabendrick, river rocks are the best choice. “The best natural-looking creek beds use rounded stones,” she says. “That is what you’d find in real creek beds from tumbling around in the water.”

She suggests anchoring turning points with large boulders, then placing medium and small river stones to create an organic look. Check out more tips in her book, Big Impact Landscaping.

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Rain Drainage Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy @heatherhereshegrows/instagram

Rain Drainage Dry Creek Bed

This small dry creek bed by @heatherhereshegrows helps with drainage. Rain flows through a copper rain chain, then streams through the creek bed into the grass.

To achieve a similar look, use flat slate stones as the border, then fill in the center with small round rocks. Place landscaping fabric underneath the creek bed to prevent weeds.

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Wet Climate Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy @southernlandscapegroup/instagram

Wet Climate Dry Creek Bed

Here’s another dry creek bed that looks beautiful but also helps prevent water accumulation. This one, by @southernlandscapegroup, is in Forest, Virginia which receives 43 inches of rain per year on average. If you live in a similarly wet climate, a dry creek bed can divert water and protect your landscape from a washout.

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a dry meandering river bed stream, which is part of a Japanese garden and is created by neatly placed slate paddlestones and pebbles, which are laid and overlapped to represent water alongside a bed of purple iris flowers.
mtreasure/Getty Images

Japanese Garden Dry Creek Bed

This Japanese garden features a dry creek bed of slate paddle stones. The dark slate makes a big impact in your landscape design, and the flat stones overlap to create a uniform look. If you like the style of Japanese gardens, be sure to surround the creek bed with plenty of lush greenery, like the bed of purple irises shown here.

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Gutter Downspout Dry Creek Bed

Splash blocks redirect water from gutter downspouts, but they can look generic and messy. Instead, @housestorydesigns replaced the blocks with mini dry creek beds made of black river rock. This provides a more custom look that blends in with the surrounding mulch. Plus, unlike the splash blocks, a creek bed can be custom-built as short or as long as needed.

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Driveway Dry Creek Bed

Watch the mesmerizing process of this large dry creek bed by @stephenlisk being built, from start to finish. This one diverts water from the driveway and gives the overall yard more curb appeal. The light color of the rocks contrasts nicely with the dark mulch.

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Erosion Control Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy Carolyn Rogers

Erosion Control Dry Creek Bed

When a sloped yard is at risk of tumbling or sliding down after a lot of rain, a dry creek bed is a great solution. Build the bed so it redirects water to a grassy or sandy area on the property to prevent erosion. Rocks of different sizes gives the bed a natural look and maximizes water carrying.

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Play Yard Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy @littlelifelonglearners/instagram

Play Yard Dry Creek Bed

This DIY dry creek bed by @littlelifelonglearners helps with drainage, but that’s not what makes it special. They incorporated the creek bed design into their outdoor play space, separate the kids’ area from the rest of the yard. Along with that adorable wood bridge, the creek bed provides an additional fun place for kids to explore.

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Desert Dry Creek Bed
Courtesy @fredricksonlandscapeinc/instagram

Desert Dry Creek Bed

Of course, rain water drainage is not the only reason to install a dry creek bed. This desert yard by @fredricksonlandscapeinc features a dry creek bed simply for the aesthetic effect. It provides color and texture in a xeriscape yard, introducing a focal point and breaking up the design.

Erica Young
Erica Young is a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in home and lifestyle pieces. She loves writing about home decor, organization, relationships, and pop culture. She holds a bachelor's degree in Journalism and Mass Communication from Arizona State University, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.