Creek and River Erosion and
Ways You Can Help

Facts and tips on how to manage creek and stream erosion.



River Erosion Control: Taming A Subtle, Yet Powerful Force of Nature

Have you ever seen the Grand Canyon? The Grand Canyon is perhaps one of the most impressive examples of how erosion can dramatically transform the environment and landscapes we inhabit. Erosion is a natural process that shapes and reshapes the landscapes around us. No matter what you do, erosion will happen. It’s natural.

However, a problem arises when the erosion is caused by unnatural means, which is where proper river erosion control is not only necessary, but crucial for our continued existence. Land development, urban channelization, and improperly managed or non-existent storm water management systems can cause a riparian ecosystem to come apart at the seams.

What is Bad About Erosion

Corn falls into the East Nishnabotna River in Montgomery County, Iowa.

What’s Bad About River & Creek Erosion

Most folks don’t realize how much harm is done when a creek is poorly managed. Problems in creeks and streams are rarely localized. Anything you do to one part affects everything else down stream, and some things a little up stream too! In general, creek or stream erosion causes loss of habitat and vegetation, loss of property, siltation, turbulent waters, and an increased possibility for flooding.

Some animals find it more difficult to feed in these situations, and can die as a result. Not to mention, poorly managed watershed areas are an eyesore, and can make an area feel rundown and dirty, whereas a well maintained creek area makes a place feel healthy and vibrant.

For example, let’s say you are like Mike from Raleigh, North Carolina. He noticed that his watershed, specifically the Wakefield Branch , was suffering due to an insufficient storm water management program in the nearby suburban area.

wakefield branch north carolina

Mike started an action on and is trying to partner with local schools and other organizations to remedy this problem.

Or maybe you are like Joe from Knoxville, Tennessee. He realized that poor creek management was resulting in loss of property for him and his neighbors. Their stream went from being 8 feet wide, to nearly 20 feet wide in the space of 30 years. Joe got together with his neighbors, and officials from the Knox County Stormwater Management Division, and with the help of a grant from the EPA, they have taken some pretty impressive steps in restoring this creek to a functional and productive asset. Read the full story here!

How Do I Fix The Problem?

A creek or stream usually suffers erosion due to a substantial increase in water flow or the removal of trees and other vegetation from its banks. In either case, the unrelenting water cuts through the earth around it. Once the earth has been sufficiently weakened, it crumbles into the stream.

Fixing erosion involves two major steps: redirect the force of the water, and stabilize the soil. This is done through the use of gabion baskets, ric rac (the specialized placement of rocks and gravel to redirect the flow of a river), and the planting of appropriate vegetation.

Take These Steps To Help Prevent Or Stop Erosion In Your Area

  1. Observe.First and foremost, you MUST take time to discover all possible angles of the problem, and the potential solutions. After you have put your erosion control methods into place, you’ll need to observe how they are working, and take steps to ensure you are not doing more damage than good.

    Make sure to take time during your observation stage to notice if there are any trees or other plants that are “helping” the stream. You’ll need to know that when you are putting together the plan, and installing your erosion control system.

  2. Get Help.Contact any of the natural resource or storm water management departments in your area. Find out if they are doing anything, if you can do something, and how to go about doing that something.

    Make friends with these guys! They will tell you if you need any special permits to take action, and they will be able to tell you if there are any grants available in your area to help with your project.

    Don’t forget to contact your affected neighbors as well. Since the creek is likely going to affect more than just you or your family, it’s important to take this step in order to avoid causing more problems down stream.

  3. Make a Plan.Do research on the appropriate measures for your stream conditions. If it is a small area, you may get away with just planting the right trees, shrubs, and grasses.

    Try to plant native species only, and species of plants that will be hardy to that area. If it is a larger body of water, you may need heavy equipment, lots of large rocks and more.

    Be careful though. An incorrectly placed gabion basket, for example, can cause more damage than good!

  4. Take Action.Don’t just sit back and wonder how you can help. Do something about it. Get out there and participate in the installation of your creek-saving measures.

    Go to, to create or participate in an action, today.

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