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Is River Rock Good for Drainage? 4 Things To Know

Is River Rock Good for Drainage? 4 Things To Know

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Willie Moore
Latest posts by Willie Moore (see all)

A popular option for landscaping your home is river rock, made of beautiful colored stones that have been polished by years of running water. If you’re considering river rock landscaping, it’s crucial to find out how good it is for drainage.

River rock is very good for drainage. The stones used in the landscaping help to channel the water trickling through them in a way similar to a natural river. The water is diverted by each stone, and the hundreds of them form a porous channel that guides the water to a safe part of your property.

This article will explain all the most important things to know about the benefits of river rock drainage and the best ways to use it. Keep reading!

Things To Know About River Rock Drainage

1. River Rock Allows Water Absorption

River rock stones don’t form a watertight system, so they allow the ground beneath to absorb water and moisture from above. This helps prevent your landscape from getting water-logged by small amounts of water.

With larger volumes of water, strategically placing the rocks will create a channel to lead it to a portion of land where it can be easily absorbed. 

You can use stones of various sizes to create the right river rock drainage system. The river rock sizes you can choose from include:

  • ⅜-inch (0.95 cm) river rocks
  • ¾- inch (1.9 cm) river rocks
  • 1-inch (2.54 cm) river rocks
  • 1-inch to 3-inches (2.54 to 7.62 cm) river rocks
  • 3-inches to 5-inches (7.62 to 12.7 cm) river rocks (source)

When set right, these rocks will maximize the absorption of the ground beneath them as well as the water channel system of your overall landscaping.

2. River Rock Can Be Used To Fix Other Drainage Options

The versatility of river rock can work with different drainage types, so choosing it doesn’t mean you have to rule out other options.

River rock is often used to inlay drainage systems to improve the overall aesthetics and improve the absorption. The common types of drainage used with river rock are pipes and gutter systems.

Using River Rock With Pipes

Pipes are a common choice for home drainage because they are readily available and versatile enough to carry water away from areas where they can damage your building. However, outdoor pipe drainage has downsides, especially during inevitable leakages or rainfall in a flood-prone area.

Heavy rainfall or a major to minor leakage will cause water from the pipe system to accumulate within your compound. This water-logging can damage the flooring of your building, cause a safety hazard or even kill plants. 

You can add river rock to the pipe drainage to prevent these problems. In a situation that should cause water logging, the rocks will divert the excess flow to a moisture-safe area.

To solve a leakage, river rock can be used to create a diversionary French drain to reroute water from the damaged area to a safe point.

Using River Rock With a Gutter System

A river rock drainage channel can also be used to aid a gutter system. When laid into gutters or trenches, the rocks can cover the unattractive rough soil and provide a channel for the water to trickle through.

You can also use a river rock channel to fix pooling water in a stagnant gutter. Setting the rocks from the base of the gutter will help to guide the water so it can flow freely to an area that won’t be affected by water.

3. River Rock Drainage Can Prevent Erosion of Exposed Topsoil

If you have plants in your landscape or intend to use the soil for planting, erosion is a significant threat to your gardening. With non-absorbent ground, erosion can also be a threat to the strength of the foundation.

The most common type of erosion in this situation is sheet erosion, where water running over the soil washes away its top layer. 

While you’ll still have soil that can be used for planting if this layer is washed off, the leftovers won’t be as productive with plants anymore.

With a layer swept off, it’ll be easier for excess water to leach into the bottom layers and wash the nutrients beyond the reach of your plant’s roots. Eventually, this erosion can kill your plants or stunt their growth.

Laying river rock over the soil helps to lock it in place. When water runs over the ground, the stones will direct it, so it runs off them instead of washing off any of the soil.

4. River Rock Can Prevent Landscape Mud

Mud from wet soil can make an annoying mess to deal with. River rock landscaping will hold down the earth so it doesn’t mix with water to create that muddy mess.

Laying in the rocks with gravel can almost eliminate the risk of getting mud anywhere while directing water to flow freely and safely.

Tips for River Rock Drainage

Choosing river rock for drainage is an efficient, low-maintenance option.

However, your landscape will still need regular maintenance to keep it in tip-top condition. Here are some important tips for maintaining your river rock drainage system:

  • Lay a foundation fabric before setting in the river rock.
  • Clean your drainage regularly. Protect your river rock from accumulating trash and dust that could make a mess of it.
  • Apply gravel under larger rocks to prevent them from sinking into the soil.
  • If you’re laying your river rock on exposed soil, watch out for weeds. The stones won’t stop the stubborn grasses and shrubs from creeping out, so you should manually uproot them before they can block the drainage.
  • With rocks laid over bare soil, gently rinse the rocks with a water hose whenever they get dirty. Apply moderate water pressure to remove the dirt without putting the rocks out of place.


River rock landscaping is an excellent choice because its versatility makes it useful for drainage, aesthetics, and many other purposes.

You can use these stones to reroute water channels, spruce up your home’s outlook and prevent water damage, all for an inexpensive price. It’s time to get to happy landscaping!

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