Creating a dry river bed

Last weekend I finally got around to (almost) completing the dry river bed that features in our backyard design.

The left side of our backyard is a flat, decent-sized area that lacks ‘energy’. It’s also an area that puddles very quickly where there is a downpour of rain. Betsy-Sue did a great job in her design to break up the space with a dry river bed. Not only does it add interest to a boring area, but it allows for water to soak into the soil slowly and effectively.

The river bed design

The river bed is positioned on the left side of the backyard, in-between the fence and house footpath. The shape is almost a reverse ‘J’, with a large area at the back fence trailing down to a small area near the house.

In the large section, Betsy-Sue advised to add three large rocks – two flat rocks and an upright rock in the middle. After the large section, two medium-sized rocks act as stepping stones to allow for the meandering path to continue, and smaller rocks will make up the rest of the river bed.

The plans specified using sandstone rocks, but we decided to use the resources around us and salvage some basalt rock that is being excavated from the new estate areas being developed not far from us.


I had actually dug out the hole for the river bed back in July when I was in an over eager mood to get cracking on the design.

The next step was getting the rocks.

Mark and I went for a reconnaissance walk around the new development areas last Saturday afternoon to see what rocks were laying about. There is a lot of work going on in our area, and basalt rock is being dug up all the time, so we knew we would find plenty of rocks to fill the river bed.

We weren’t sure how we’d go getting the bigger feature rocks, but a walk down beside Davis creek revealed a collection of striking purple colored rocks in different sizes, including three large rocks, so we made a note of the spot to come back with the ute later.

Whilst we were walking around, we came across a big drift of flowering Indigofera Australis. I was really heartened to see local indigenous plants are being used in the area with great effect. The purple pea flowers are really pretty.

Indigofera Australia will be planted behind the featured rocks in our backyard design, so it was possible to get a sense of what the end result will look like.

We piled the rocks we found into small heaps on the side of the road, and came back with the Ute later in the afternoon to collect our haul. Everything was collected in one trip, but I will need to go back and collect more bucket loads of smaller rocks to complete the small part of the river bed. But at least the hard part was over!

The next day I was up early and out in the backyard sorting through the rocks. Once I had set aside the feature rocks I set about constructing the river bed.

I started with the stepping stone area first and worked my way out on either side. The bigger rocks were added to the large area to create a base for the feature rocks, and I gradually transitioned the size of the rocks to lead into smaller ones in the small area.

The final step was placing the feature rocks on the rock base. I then washed down the feature rocks to bring out the color.

A bird bath will be positioned at the end of the small section, with kangaroo grasses and an Eremophila bush to the side that will provide food and shelter. I’m thinking of planting some sedges in the river bed to add some additional food for the birds to nibble on while they take a bath. The green, straw-like foliage of the sedges will look nice poking out of the bed.

Now to wait for the end result!

I’m really happy with the way it brings life to the yard. I’m excited to see the purple flowers and green foliage of the Indigofera Australis eventually surrounding it. The meandering path will tie everything together nicely and it will be a nice space to wander through.

I can see birds resting on the feature rocks as they make their way around the neighborhood. And fingers crossed there will even be a few blue tongue lizards enjoying a sun bake too!