This Section Needs a Check Dam!

cupped tread

A check dam is not designed and built to provide a step…It is placed primarily to catch silt and back-fill the trail treadway.

Where Is It Used?

checkdam topTrail Stewards build check dams in the troughs of heavily washed-out ruts or sections of hiking trails


The check dam checks and holds running rain water long enough to allow the dirt, or silt, carried off from uphill to settle behind the log set into the rut. Some will splash over the check dam, certainly. But, over time, enough will settle and backfill the treadway.

How Is It Designed?

Ruts are most often cut into treadway that runs directly downhill, where the trail works against the natural contour lines. The Steward finds and sets a limb of a hardwood tree (black locust is especially useful) 90° across the trough, burying it half-way and staking it in at the ends.

Prevent Splash Erosion, Too!

Stewards always cover new treadway with dead leaves. Even though flowing rain water and silt will ultimately cover the newly exposed treadway, leaf litter helps catch and hold new silt, allowing the check dam to better do its job.

leaf litter

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