Stream Crossing Construction and Maintenance

Each type of water crossing has consequences for the recreation experience and the lands being accessed.

Stream banks and stream beds are constantly changing. Choose wisely from the range of available options before committing present and future resources to a crossing.

Objective

To provide a stream crossing within the trail corridor that promotes hiker safety and resource protection. A clearly defined stream crossing, particularly at moderate- to high-use trail areas, serves to confine visitor use and impacts to the established trail.

General Standards

  1. Crossings will be maintained to a maximum tread width of 2 feet with a solid bottom consisting of cobble size (fist-sized) stone
  2. Blazes should be visible at all crossings
  3. Approaches should be well maintained to provide definition
  4. Stepping stones should be large, fairly flat on top, and stable
  5. Space stones for the average stride, taking children and short strides into consideration (approximately 2 feet apart)

Standards for Primitive Wilderness and Primitive Non-Wilderness Opportunity Classes (low use, blue blazed and yellow blazed trails)

  1. Visitor convenience is generally not an objective
  2. Crossings provided primarily for visitor safety and resource protection
  3. Occurrence of storm and/or high stream flow events dictate frequency of maintenance, with minimal amount of work
  4. Approaches should be solid, firm, and at less than 30% slope when possible
  5. Stream crossings should not be provided at sites where stream depth typically exceeds 2 feet

Standards for Semi-primitive Wilderness and Non-Wilderness, Threshold Wilderness and Non-Wilderness Opportunity Classes ( moderate to high use, blue blazed and yellow blazed trails)

  1. Visitor convenience may be an objective in addition to visitor safety and resource protection
  2. Occurrence of storm and/or high stream flow events dictate frequency of maintenance, with minimal amount of work. Additional maintenance may be required on some high use trails
  3. Approaches should be solid, firm, and at less than 20% slope when possible
  4. Stream crossings should not be provided at sites where stream depth typically exceeds 1 foot

Techniques

Construction

  1. Use existing features when possible (boulders, ledges, etc.)
  2. Minimize movement of rocks within the stream bed
  3. When constructing stepping stones, use high lines to relocate rocks whenever possible
  4. Stream bed may require prep work to insure stepping stone stability
  5. Stepping stones may need to be shaped before placement
  6. Minor trail relocations may be appropriate to access natural features
  7. Work should be performed during periods of low stream flow
  8. Use minimum tool concepts. Get the job done with the least long term impacts

Maintenance

  1. Stepping stones may need to be stabilized due to heavy use or high stream flow
  2. Stepping stones should be kept free of logs, limbs, and other debris to prevent damming

Equipment

  • Pick mattock, Cutter mattock, or Pulaski
  • Rock bar or Digging iron
  • McLeod or Fire rake
  • Griphoist and associated rigging hardware