and gullies on your property
This web article explains
how forest owners can cross streams with tractors and ATVs while
minimizing sediment runoff and protecting the stream's aquatic
- Make every effort to avoid crossing streams
- Cross streams directly when necessary
Build and maintain effective structures to protect the stream
bottom and banks
Forest owners who work
in their woodlot will likely deal with three kinds of streams:
1) Creeks that flow constantly
2) Smaller streams that occasionally dry down or freeze over
3) Dry washes that fill with intermittent flow from snowmelt or
All three types of
streams require some kind of protection during woodland work.
Because they are variable, soil erosion can be unpredictable.
Damage to soil on the sides or bottom of streams is harmful and
should be avoided.
Best management practices for crossing streams
Arrange your firewood
cutting or timber improvement activity to cross streams as few
times as possible or not at all.
Refrain from cutting trees or brush in the vicinity of streams
or stream crossings.
Find out if you
need a permit to cross large creeks on your property.
To determine the classification and standard of a given watercourse,
contact the Department of Environmental Conservation regional
office responsible for the area in which the creek is located.
You can find out from your Soil and Water Conservation District
if the stream is considered "classified."
Very small streams
are sometimes dry or frozen, making crossing less harmful.
If the weather becomes warmer or rainy, refrain from crossing
Cross streams where
the stream bottom is stable and the banks are low and intact.
Forest owners will often "ford" a stream (cross through
it without any bridge or other structure) with a tractor or ATV.
This is sometimes acceptable, sometimes not. Do not ford fast-moving
streams or streams with unstable banks. If your crossing forms
ruts and suddenly clouds the water, it is incorrect. Find another
place to cross or stabilize the crossing to prevent rutting and
If a stream crossing
is necessary, install an appropriate structure - a bridge, a culvert,
or a pole ford - to minimize rutting and erosion.
to minimize sediment erosion and maintain stream flow.
Inspect a planned stream crossing, noting potential obstacles,
steep slopes, or other erosion hazards. Select materials that
will not harm aquatic life. Consult with the county Soil and Water
Conservation District technicians to assist with temporary or
permanent bridge construction. They can sometimes visit the site
and help guide your efforts to protect the stream from inadvertent
crossings to minimize erosion.
Use arch-type culverts to maintain stream bottoms and reduce sedimentation.
Size the culvert(s) to handle current and storm flows of water.
Consult with the county Soil and Water Conservation District technicians
to assist with proper installation of culverts. Failure to properly
size a culvert can lead to washed out roads and inaccessible forest
fords with rock or pole timber.
cross intermittent streams and dry washes can be protected with
small logs placed side-by-side, or clean rock. These materials
will prevent cross rutting and ponding within the logging trail.
They should be removed immediately following the timber work.
Do not allow woodlot
machinery to enter steep gullies.
To extract firewood
from gullies, use winches or small-scale equipment, like ATV logging
devices. Drag logs cross slope and immediately repair or divert
water from tracks. In many cases, large trees in gullies are essential
for keeping the soil intact and should not be harvested at all.
Where a logging
trail approaches a stream crossing divert water into the forest.
If water collects and flows down a logging trail, it should be
diverted off to the surrounding vegetation with a dip before it
reaches the culvert or bridge. Do not allow water on a forest
road to flow directly into a stream, as it will inevitably carry
sediment. If it flows off to the surrounding vegetation, the water
will filter through the streamside zone, trapping the sediment.
The deck of the bridge (or culvert cover) should be higher than
the approach road to improve drainage away from the stream crossing.
crossing structures during low flow periods.
Use temporary bridges
to cross streams when appropriate.
If a selected forest road will be unmaintained after the work
is completed, a temporary bridge will protect the stream banks
without incurring significant costs.
Monitor stream crossing
structures for plugging.
Bridges and culverts should not become filled with sediment or
clogged with debris or beaver activity. This would create a significant
erosion hazard as the water would then flow around or over the
structure. Bigger may be better, considering the unpredictability
of heavy rain and flash floods.