How to Build a River Stone Path

Square spades help you to set straight sides.
Square spades help you to set straight sides. (Image: George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

River stone is a smooth rock that is aesthetically pleasing. When used on a path it is durable, attractive and also gentle on the feet if you walk on it barefoot. River rock shifts a bit because it is so smooth, so it needs to be used on top of a more structured surface like crushed rock. The size of river rock varies from 3/8 inch to 2 1/2 inches. When it is very small it is also called pea gravel. River rock is usually gray or brown.

Things You'll Need

  • String
  • Square spade
  • Hand tamper
  • Crushed rock
  • Landscape fabric
  • Metal edging
  • Hammer
  • Spreader bar
  • Block of wood
  • River rock

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Map out the path with string. Lay a length of string on each side of the path so you can see exactly where you want it to go.

Dig out the path so it is 4 inches deep. Use your spade to make the sides straight and the bottom even. Smooth the bottom with a metal rake and compact it using a hand tamper.

Fill the path with 2 1/2 inches of crushed rock. This acts as a base rock and won't move around as much as river rocks. Rake the path smooth.

Spray the crushed rock with water and pound it down with a hand tamper until it is smooth and compacted.

Unroll landscape fabric over the path with the shiny side up. Secure it with stakes if desired, but the edging will also help hold it in place.

Lay the edging on either side of the path, using a spreader bar to keep it apart. Hammer it in place by holding a wood block over the top of the edging and tapping it down with the hammer. Follow the manufacturer's instructions when connecting the edging sections.

Fill the path with river rock so that it is 1/2 inch from the top of the edging. Rake the gravel smooth.


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