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Dirt road and rain

Jim Lea

Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
I hope this is an appropriate place to start this thread. So here goes.

I'm wondering if others have had success using this method... I'm new to country living and have about a 2 miles of dirt road to maintain. In some areas I get quite bad erosion during heavy rain. I also love to fly fish! Read that as I have studied water flow just for fun.
I have yet to prove this but am pretty confident it will work as time wears on. What I have done is used a construction string line to represent where I want water to flow line to go. One end is at the point where water enters the road the other is where I want it to flow out of, or off the road. The next thing is to make an area either side of the string level. DEAD LEVEL. I use an 8 foot level and hold it perpendicular to the line. In this way I propose the water will spread out and move more slowly, and ad such will not cut. Since it is dead level the water spreads and flows down the string. More water means a wider area right and left of the string line.
When a low area cuts with water I pull dirt or gravel inyo the cut from a high point and thus fine tune the level. Dead level is hard to achieve. All the while respecting the "flow line". So far this is working for me...
Do you have a method that works for you on your roads? I'd love to hear about it and learn. I can post photos and will bit can't this text.
Sure I could bring in tons soon tons of gravel but that wouldn't be cost effective. And a lot less fun. Ideas?


CA, Southern Sierras, alt. 4550 feet, zone 9ish. (still figuring it out), 3 mo. grow season. Regular wind to 20 mph. SANDY soil with scrub oak,pine,and juniper. 2 seasonal creeks.
Brenda Groth

Joined: Feb 01, 2009
Posts: 4433
Location: North Central Michigan
oh good luck..we USED to live on a dirt (clay) road, and it was a real pain..eventually county paved it thank God, but most of the roads in our neighborhood are still dirt.

one of the problems here was ground water and drainage from neighboring properties..they did regrade all the ditches a few years back but the fools put culverts to direct all of the neighborhood water on OUR property..we couldn't believe it..with our request they did come in and put a ditch north to south across our property to carry the water back to the swamp, but still our property !!..a few years ago when we had a house fire we had fill taken out of our field and dug a pond and put in some french that helps..but as far as is really a pain to keep them clear.

there are some other posts somewhere on this site and some I think on the homesteading today you might do some searching.

mainly what they say is to crown the road if you can..use a lot of gravel to mix in to help drain..and make sure you know what is below the road surface esp if there are springs or surface water problems..get those ditches on the sides deep enough to hold and move away excess water..a backhoe helps there..but 2 miles !!! good luck..


Bloom where you are planted.
Jim Lea

Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's

Thanks for the encouragement Brenda. It is working here. My method that is.

Turns out that we can't crown the roads as we are on hilly slopes. A crown causes water to back up on the up hill side. Then areas get real muddy. I have taken the crown out of them and created a very gentle slope. Maybe 1:400. That lets water flow with out it cutting. Where water naturally crosses (seasonal creeks) is where I do my spread the water wide thing. Working beautifully so far. I'll post more as time passes and as I learn tricks that may help others out.
I have picture ready to post but don't see an upload button. I'll figure it out and get them up sometime soon I suppose.
richard valley

Joined: Aug 18, 2011
Posts: 195
Location: Sierra Nevada mountain valley CA, & Nevada high desert
One of the ranches is on an unpaved road. It hasn't been a problem.
Jim Lea

Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
So with Paul talking with Neil in the current podcasts, I thought I'd post an update. Bottom line is the idea worked.
Remember that Tue water was gaining speed and volume as it traveled down. Erosion was a serious problem.
Cutting a 20 foot area to let the water arrest its speed and cross the road seems to be the ticket. Any erosion is filled in with small rock from surrounding areas. This rock checks the speed of new cutting, and also spreads the water. Spreading also slows the water. New erosion gets myore small rock. The idea is, that "wide" water has no power. "Skinny" water or deep water has velocity and inherent power to wash away soil.
This ends this update.
Jim Lea

Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
Where the water flows across the road.

[Thumbnail for IMAG0589.jpg]

Jim Lea

Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
This shot is of the fall line. The pink construction line. Lay a level perpendicular to the line and grade dead level. Remember, wherever the line is set the water flows. With this method. I'm not saying it is the best. The idea is to slow the velocity of the water by spreading it wider. Kind of the opposite of the venturing effect. The water still cuts. So this is where you add gravel in the cut to slow and spread again. Working well in 4 areas on the road.
Got to love the lessons you learn from flyfishing.

[Thumbnail for IMAG0587.jpg]

Jim Lea

Joined: Aug 01, 2011
Posts: 114
Location: Southern Sierra Nevada's
Neil or Paul, if you happen onto this area and see this photo... you can see that this area of our road is a problem. Clay. I mean, stop the truck, and slide sideways kind of clay. The area to the left is up. If we crown (which I believe in) we will create a covert. The whole road in this 100 yard stretch is pretty level. So the drainage will hit the road and sit still if we crown. I'm thinking add more angle so the water flows off to the right and forget the crown in this area only. Thoughts?
Also the area in this picture was very rutted just before the shot. It was worked over by the tractor and does not show the bad ruts.
Oh by the way thanks for the time put in on the current podcasts on roads!

[Thumbnail for IMAG0581.jpg]

Rufus Laggren

Joined: Feb 23, 2012
Posts: 337
Location: Chicago/San Francisco

Ignorant but curious here. Wonder how this stretch is shaping up?

If you crowned it, created a covert (shallow ditch, right?) on the high side, could you find a lower end spot for the covert to dump it's water (slowly) across one specially prepared spot in the road? Limit the real work (extra flat, level across the flow, very slight slope) and specialized material (rock, gravel) to one small area.

Seems like if there were bad ruts, the water was finding at least some slope to run - which would seem to mean your covert might have at least a tiny bit of "top" and "bottom" which would allow you to control it's flow...

Not sure if I make any sense here; not much knowledge, nix for experience. Roads do seem like a clearly visible cusp where man meets nature and things happen - in a way that can clearly be seen and adjusted. Interesting.


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