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Stabilize Your Stream Crossings

Stabilize Your Stream Crossings

A stream crossing provides a hard, stable area where horses, livestock and equipment can cross a stream without damaging the streambed or banks. Stabilized crossings are a low-cost but highly effective Best Management Practice that can help to protect water quality.

stream crossing
Stones Across the Stream Bed

For a simple crossing over a small stream, reinforce the surface by laying down stones of various sizes in the stream bed at the crossing site. On larger and higher volume streams, crossings may need to be reinforced with geotextile material (fabric, plastic grids) to reduce erosion and siltation issues.

stream crossing

It is important when selecting a crossing site to choose an area where the stream bed and banks are already relatively stable. Avoid areas with stream banks that are steep (greater than 10% slope), very wet or heavily eroded, and locations in which the direction of the stream changes abruptly.

Don’t allow livestock to loaf in the stream. Locate crossings away from shady areas with trees, and install them perpendicular to the direction of stream flow. And recognize the natural tendency of streams to migrate and meander over time.

Why Not a Concrete Crossing?

When possible, avoid installing a concrete crossing. Although concrete-slab fords are relatively simple and very durable, they are not the most effective for small crossings. They are expensive compared to simple rock fords, and their installation can cause greater than necessary disturbance to the streambed. In addition, they may not provide the results you are seeking. If the slab is too high, silt and sediment may fill the channel and destabilize the banks.

Guidance and Permits

Please note that construction of stabilized crossings is regulated by the PA Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). If you are interested in doing any work in a stream bed, you are required by law to receive the necessary approvals. Your county conservation district can offer assistance in both designing a stabilized crossing and obtaining the appropriate permits.