River Rock Landscaping
5 Water Features

Photos of river rock landscaping water features that will inspire you in landscaping with rock at your home. How to prepare ground for river rock and calculate the amount needed for your landscape design project.



River rocks are smooth round or oblong natural landscaping stones that you can purchase (usually by the ton) for use in a variety of landscape design and gardening projects.

They range in size from 2-12 inches in diameter and from white through all shades of tan and black in color.


River Rock Landscaping Projects

You can use these decorative landscaping rocks to edge flower beds and borders or to build low walls. Of course, river rock is a natural choice for constructing or decorating waterfalls, ponds or other water features.

Where river rock should not be used:

Because of the exceptionally smooth surface of this type of stone, it can become slippery when wet. Therefore, it is not the best choice for paths or walkways.

The following projects make delightful and appropriate use of this attractive landscape stone:

A river rock waterfall at a resort in Mexico.

This is one of the most unique examples of landscaping with river rock that I have ever seen. It is an arch and waterfall at a resort I don't recall the name of in Mexico.

Tiny and I were drawn into listening to a sales pitch for a timeshare here while wandering around Cozumel during a cruise ship shore excursion.

The thing that I find really captivating about this river rock landscaping design is that the waterfall is patterned after a staircase.

This seemed fitting for a pool in the Caribbean. It reminded us of the terraced Dunn's River Falls in Jamaica.

The potted umbrella tree and the swaying fronds of Cocos nucifera add to the tropical ambiance of this pool landscape.

River rock dry stream bed photo.

This dry stream bed makes a dramatic statement in the commercial landscape design pictured here.

To make a dry creek bed, proceed as follows:

  • "Draw" the stream bed on the ground with landscaping paint (or chalk, or flour).
  • Dig a shallow trench inside the paint lines.
  • Line the trench with landscaping fabric to prevent weeds from infiltrating.
  • Place the largest rocks in first. Don't put them all on the sides. You need some big rocks in the middle of the stream to slow the flow of water during a downpour and they look good there too.
  • Next, add the medium-sized river rocks. Use these to fill out most of the design. Use the smallest stones to fill any gaps left by the larger rocks.

    Using stones of different sizes will give your creek bed greater eye appeal.

    Ideally, the soil in any planting beds adjacent to the dry stream should be amended prior to the stream being dug. This way, you can incorporate any excess soil into the surrounding flower beds when you dig the trench.

    Next, add the river rock. Then add whatever plants your landscape design calls for. Just be careful not to wash soil into the dry stream bed when you water them in.

    The plant with the orange flowers on the left is the showy Canna 'Pretoria'.

  • Other half of the dry stream bed landscape design.

    This is the other half of the river rock landscaping design shown above. This landscape is beautiful now, but imagine how much more striking it would be if these beds were edged with the same large river rock as has been used in the dry creek bed.

    I love the choice of plants here.

    The plants with the huge, tropical leaves are different types of Colocasias, commonly called elephant ears.

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    River Rock Landscaping
    How Much Rock Do I Need?

    To calculate the amount of river rock your project will require, measure the area to determine its square footage. River rock is most often sold by the ton.

    The problem is this: You cannot achieve equal coverage with every size stone.

    A ton of the smallest rocks will cover roughly 3 times the square footage as a ton of the largest stones.

    There is a chart on this page which will help you determine the amount you need.

    A river rock waterfall surrounded by Queen palm trees.

    This river rock waterfall landscape design outside of a public utility is small but very nicely done.

    The brown and tan stones compliment the color of the building behind them.

    Three different types of stone have been used to make this irregularly-shaped bed more visually interesting: the river rock surrounding the water, the landscape pavers edging the bed and the pebble mulch.

    Queen palms give the planting height and movement as their feathery fronds dance on the slightest breeze.

    The red ti plants beneath them bring in saturated color which is complimented by the rosy bloom spikes of the clumps of fountain grass.

    Finally, the waterfall is flanked by 2 young Mexican fan palms.

    This is a newly-installed landscape feature. In time, all of the plants (except the fountain grass) will grow to be much taller and wider.

    This will change the look of the bed considerably.

    When choosing plants for landscaping, always consider their mature size and appearance.

    River rock landscaping at a Dusit resort.

    This landscaping idea picture shows what can be done with smaller river rocks. Just the small and medium stones have been used to create this stream bed.

    Lush plantings corralled in round beds fill in all the blanks. The prehistoric-looking leaves of the split-leaf philodendron drape dramatically over 1 side of the stream, while the delicate fronds of Boston ferns dangle over the wall opposite.

    The dramatic red stems of the tropical lipstick palm contribute height and color to the design.

    Large river rocks used to form a pond.

    Here, you see what can be achieved using large river rock. Only large gray and black stones have been used to create this small pond.

    Dark stones mimic shadowy water while the red wooden bridge adds color to this river rock landscaping water feature.



    More Landscape Design Ideas This Way:

    Landscaping with Boulders: Huge Rocks Make a Big Impact!

    Swimming Pool Landscape Design Photos & Tips

    Beautiful, Doable Ideas for Landscaping Walls

    A Backyard Landscape Design Dominated by Water

    The Importance of Water in Desert Landscape Design

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