I have a trail about 10' wide going down a hill in the woods behind my house. This particular section has a ~10-15% grade. It receives regular foot, tractor, and log skidding (i.e. behind the tractor) traffic, so there's not much that grows in the pathway (and planting some kind of turf grass won't work). The soil is gravelly under the duff layer. The area receives minimal light since this is going through the woods. The edge of the trail is a mix of brush, saplings, and large trees -- more the latter than the former.

When we get heavy rain, parts of the trail wash out. It can be repaired, but I prefer prevention over cure.

What are my options for preventing erosion on this trail?

  • Does the trail naturally slope (drain) to one side or the other or has it a camber? Would installing some kind of French drain system be feasible, practical? How about turning the trail into a gravel, crushed rock, road type surface? – Mike Perry Oct 10 '11 at 18:08
  • @MikePerry: It's pretty even -- not much tilt to either side. Installing a road surface wouldn't be cost effective (probably need two truckloads of material at $250 or so each). French drain is a good idea, but overkill for me -- it would be less work to simply repair the trail when it gets a washout. Water bars seem like the winner at this point. – bstpierre Oct 10 '11 at 19:27

Suggestion gleaned from here.

You might try some water bars. This is a small trench at an angle (30-40 degrees) to the trail at intervals filled with rocks or a log. These will catch water and shunt it to the sides of the trail so that it will not flow down your path. They also suggest digging drainage ditches along the sides of the trail to catch the water.

Id suggest (partly because they are effective and partly because they are really pretty) forsythia planted along the sides of the ditches to prevent erosion of the sides of the ditches.

Something like mulch or landscape fabric might also be worth considering, but so far it looks like water bars may be your best bet.

  • 2
    Yes 'water bars' would be the standard solution for foot trails. If you have a tractor, then you'd want something more substantial - stones or concrete probably rather than wood. And then you mention dragging logs: so you may have to go for cast concrete or ceramic half pipe. The concrete is probably an off-the-shelf item from a specialist? (rather than casting in situ) – winwaed Oct 10 '11 at 13:02
  • Mulch or fabric definitely won't work; they'd get too disturbed by skidding. I've seen water bars on hiking trails. There are plenty of "junk" trees/logs that I could use to fill, not to mention all the rocks I could ever want. (I'm imagining a series of 4" dia hemlocks sending runoff into the ditch.) Forsythia is a nice suggestion, not sure it would work here (they're likely to get whacked by passing logs). – bstpierre Oct 10 '11 at 15:05
  • come to think of it, you could always make your own concrete water bars? Make them wide and relatively flat so logs would be easily pulled over them; and big enough to carry the water without overflowing. – winwaed Oct 10 '11 at 16:53
  • @winwaed: I'm going to have to put wide, flat concrete water bars as a project on my "someday" list... sounds like fun :) – bstpierre Apr 16 '12 at 0:00

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