Filling a ditch question

   / Filling a ditch question #1  


Feb 7, 2020
Northwest Arkansas
Farmall H and Kubota MX6000
I've tried searching for this and can't find anything - my search skills are definitely not up to snuff!

Anyway, here goes: We've had huge amounts of rain and several floods on my farm, and a dry wash that used to be a gentle swale has been transformed to a ditch about 3 ft deep and 3 to 4 ft wide for 100 ft or so through the area near my barn. I need to fill this and have plenty of gravel, but figure the gravel will just wash out in the next flood and I will have to remove it AGAIN from the ditch downstream where it goes through (and sometimes all over) the yard.

So, my question is how can I fill this ditch so that it is less likely to wash out? I've thought of mixing in soil or clay (I have some, but not close) or putting in some large (like 18" or so) limestone rocks.

Anyone have any experience with this sort of thing?
   / Filling a ditch question #2  
Photos and aerial views (Google) would help.

Some ideas:

1. Divert the water to a different route

2. Contain the water (cement ditch)

3. Slow the water (wide artificial creek, lots of rocks)

4. Spread the runoff over a much wider area (no swale)

My thought on filling the ditch with rocks is that the water will just erode a new ditch beside the rocks.

   / Filling a ditch question #3  
Before filling with gravel, embed used railroad ties at intervals perpendicular to water flow.

Railway ties last nearly forever.
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   / Filling a ditch question #4  
Around here the highway dept uses straw bales. They will make small dams with three or four bales. It slows the water and sediment builds up behind each small dam. Helps prevent gigantic outwashings along the roadside ditches. Eventually the water will reach a flat area or creek and no longer be a problem.

Fill the ditch back in with native soil and use straw bales to slow the flow. A more permanent solution - as jeff9366 suggests - old railroad ties.

A staggered pattern might help slow the water also........
   / Filling a ditch question #5  
First fix what has been changed to change the way the water runs. We have a field this has happened to but not the extent you have. Should have ours solved this year as that last of the field will be sprigged with bermuda for hay and will not be bare ground again. When the field was timber no issue water was slowed by roots. When field was planted across the field the shorter way no issue, when planted the long way (both ways slope) issue began as the water ran down the rows much long way before it hit a ditch.

Depending on what the land is used for you can cut shallow ditches across the water flow to divert a different direction or to prevent it building into larger water flow. Anything that can slow the water or change the flow. Even slight grade change. Plant an annual grain around it such as oats or wheat what ever is cheap will grow there. Get the water slowed. Hay is used a lot here for road ditches and works good. Most likely you can find hay not suitable for feeding for much lower price but that is only to give time for grass or grading to solve the issue.
   / Filling a ditch question #6  
The answer will depend on volume and speed of water.
Straw is usually used just to slow low volumes of water.
Concrete cracks and can be undermined.
Stones are sized based on water speed. This is common repair method
   / Filling a ditch question #7  
What are your plans for that area? If you're thinking you'll ever plow/till/plant, you probably don't want larger rocks or timbers. If it will always be a road/path or just lawn/grass, rocks or timbers might work as a base.

Can you build that area up higher to divert water without affecting buildings?
   / Filling a ditch question #8  
I'd really need to see the areas upstream and downstream of the washout area to give good advice. Can you post pictures?

Until the cause is addressed, I think filling in the ditch is a waste of time. Nature and water did their thing and carved out the new "equilibrium". I might be more tempted to line the ditch and place large stone (rip-rap or gabion). Anything else will probably wash out.
   / Filling a ditch question #9  
You need riprap. The flow of the water will wash away material because it speeds up inside the ditch. Depending on how much material you get, you can fill it all in, or build up dams across it to slow down the water and let it fill in naturally over time.

For me, it depends on what I have on hand, or what I'll have to buy. I do a lot of remodels, so I save the busted up concrete, brick and tile from my jobs and make a big pile of it. Last time I used it, I have about 5 yards of material there that I filled in an area that the horses had created. If I was buying, the cheapest bricks I can find would be my first choice. Cinder blocks work great too, but you will still need something to fill in the gaps so water can't get through them. Most rock and gravel yards will have fairly large concrete broken up that works great for this too. It's commonly used by the County and Highway people in the ditches besides the roads to stop erosion when we're having one bad storm after another.

The goal is to stop the water over and over again, the length of the ditch, so it can never build up speed. Slow water does not erode.

I rarely fill my ditches with dirt because the riprap will trap the sediment that flows in rain water and deposit it at the riprap.

Since you have some gravel all ready, add that to the riprap dams upstream of each dam and do what you can to make it as water proof as you can. Water getting through isn't the issue, it's how fast it gets through the riprap that matters.
   / Filling a ditch question #10  
You could line the ditch with a geo-tech type material, then fill with what is known as type "D" sized, 4” - 12”; average 6”, rip rap here in Ohio. Shape the top in a swale fashion, matching what you have, to keep heavier rain water in the center, if you get that heavy of a rain.

If the bottom and sides are not feasible to work, you can shape that ditch with a backhoe, or excavator, rounding it a bit with material off the sides, rounding the bottom. Compact it with the heel of the bucket, while applying down pressure, "like" making a dig cycle. Damp, but not wet dirt/clay will pack very well. Line it with the geo-tech. You can make, or geo-tech supplier may have some large staples, to hold it in place, while adding the rip rap. Start in the bottom center of the ditch, and carefully add stone, so as not to pull the geo-tech loose.

The geo-tech on bottom should catch fine sediment sealing off the bottom, and eventually catch more filling the voids in the rock over a period of years. Shaping the rock to match the existing swale should keep the majority of the water in the center. Just be sure and line the ditch with the geo-tech on the lower end clear to the top, to keep water from rushing up under any existing sod, and washing it away, causing another wash out.

Along side, and especially at the lower end where the soil has been disturbed, you could sow a mix of a deep rooted legume, such as Red Clover, or Alfalfa, mixed with a Fescue type grass to help stop erosion moving to another place. Sowing some Cereal Rye, also deep rooted, and large root mass, along with it, makes a good nurse crop to hold soil, until the legumes get established.

I'm not sure if Willow trees are native to your area, but wouldn't be surprised if see some sprouting up in a few years. Not necessarily a bad thing, if you keep the sprouts trimmed off. The root mass below will survive the trimming, and help reinforce the rock/sediment in place.

Not a cheap fix, but works well. I'm retired from ODOT Special Projects, and have repaired many places like this along highways here, and has worked well. Maintenance is very low, even if you have to deal with the Willow sprouts.