river rocks absorb water

Does river rock absorb water? When you delve into the amazing world of river rocks, it is natural to wonder about their ability to absorb water.

Known for their aesthetic appeal, river rocks, also known as river stones, are extremely popular today.

Whether or not it can absorb water helps you decide how and where to use river rock in your landscape or garden.

So, can it absorb water and be used for drainage?

River rocks with porous surfaces have the ability to soak up and hold onto water, but their ability to absorb water depends heavily on the types used. 

Getting More Info about River Rocks

more info about river rocks

River rocks are absolutely captivating natural formations that can be discovered in riverbeds and waterways across the globe.

With their sleek and polished look, these stones have been shaped by the gentle touch of water over time.

This makes them highly attractive and sought-after for landscaping and adding a touch of elegance to any space.

River rock or gravel is the most common type used in landscaping. It is available in different sizes and comes with unique characteristics. 

Types of Rocks and Porosity

Different types of rocks are formed differently with a set of unique properties. Porosity is among those properties and determines the amount of open space present in any rock.

Under normal circumstances, air fills these open spaces, but water can force it out. The amount of water it absorbs depends on how porous the rock is.

Here is a bit more about different rocks and their weights before and after submerging in water.

RockWeight BeforeWeight After

Rocks with Different Grains

river rocks with different grains

Rocks that have rounded grains tend to be porous because water has the ability to penetrate the gaps between the grains.

Aquifers and aquicludes are rock layers that have the ability to soak up and hold water within them. 

An Important Consideration

River rocks do not create a waterproof barrier, allowing the underlying ground to absorb moisture from above.

This helps avoid waterlogging your landscape with small amounts of water.

Fact: By strategically positioning the rocks, a pathway can be formed to guide the increased water volume towards a specific area of land for efficient absorption. 

Does River Rock Absorb Water?

does river rock absorb water

Yes, river rock or gravel can absorb water.

River rock or gravel is naturally shaped by erosion or weathering, typically found in river or water environments. 

River rock is not compact, which makes them loose and prone to rolling. 

It can be used for drainage purposes or as a decorative element, like in the form of dry creeks. 

Varying Rate of Absorption

Gravels have the ability to soak up water and dehydrate the surrounding space.

For optimal gravel support, it is recommended to place a layer of sand and crushed rocks beneath the gravel.

But it is important to note that not all types of river rock are effective in water drainage.

Fact: If you are looking to create an effective drainage system, it is important to select the appropriate gravel specifically designed for that purpose. 

Most Common Types of River Rocks

common types of river rocks

The ability to absorb water varies greatly among different types of river rocks, and there are quite a few of them.

For instance:

River Rock TypesCharacteristics
PebblesRounded and used in landscaping
Gravel (river rock)A mix of different types of rock types
SandstoneSuitable for constructing buildings and walls
LimestoneSuitable for sculptures and building materials
QuartziteUsed in the countertop for its heat- and pressure-resistance

Bigger river rocks generally exhibit lower porosity due to their smoother and denser surfaces.

However, smaller river rocks or those with unconventional shapes might possess a greater surface area.

This could potentially enable them to retain small quantities of water within the spaces between the rocks. 

Utilizing River Rock for Drainage

using river rock for drainage

It is important to utilize stones of different sizes to create an effective drainage system using river rock.

You have a variety of options when it comes to selecting the sizes of river rocks:

  • 3/8-in river rocks
  • ¾-in river rocks
  • 1-in river rocks
  • 1-3 in river rocks
  • 3-5 in river rocks

When properly positioned, these rocks will optimize the absorption of the underlying ground and enhance the water channel system of your entire landscape. 

How to Use it for Drainage?

Consider incorporating river rock into the pipe drainage system to prevent water buildup issues.

When faced with a situation that could lead to waterlogging, the rocks will redirect the surplus flow to a secure area, ensuring moisture is properly managed.

To fix a leak, you can utilize river rock to construct a diversionary French drain, redirecting water away from the affected spot to a secure location. 

Using River Rock to Prevent Erosion

river rocks for preventing erosion

River rock gravel is a trustworthy companion in the fight against topsoil erosion. When scattered across the ground, the gravel creates a shield that safeguards against raindrops and reduces the speed of water flow.

River rock gravel helps to enhance water infiltration and percolation, which in turn:

  • Reduces surface runoff
  • Preserves soil moisture
  • Prevents erosion

Its permeability aids in forming drainage channels, directing water along designated routes, and safeguarding the valuable topsoil from erosion.

Fact: The natural filtering ability of the gravel helps to capture sediments and pollutants, reducing erosion and protecting the topsoil from degradation. 

Tips for Using River Rock for Drainage

river rock usage for drainage

Opting for river rock as a drainage solution is a smart and hassle-free choice. However, it is crucial to maintain your landscape to ensure its impeccable state consistently.

Check out these essential tips for keeping your river rock drainage system in top shape:

  • Make sure to lay down a sturdy foundation fabric before placing the river rock.
  • Regularly maintain and clean your drainage system.
  • Keep your river rock clean and debris-free to maintain its pristine appearance.
  • Place a layer of gravel underneath rocks to keep larger rocks from sinking into the soil.
  • Be mindful of weeds when placing river rock on bare soil. 

An Important Consideration

To keep the rocks on bare soil looking clean, gently rinse them with a water hose when they become dirty.

Gently apply water pressure to effectively remove dirt without disturbing the arrangement of the rocks.

Fact: The stones alone will not deter the persistent grasses and shrubs from encroaching, so be prepared to remove them manually. 

Other Applications of River Rocks for Their Water Absorption Ability

river rocks' water absorption

Due to its ability to absorb water, you can use river rock for much more than simply fixing drainage issues in your landscape. For instance: 

Enhance Pathways

Concrete paths are known for their durability and affordability, but their visual appeal may fall short, especially as they develop cracks and deteriorate over time.

Great news! You have a wide range of hardscaping options to choose from, including visually appealing river rocks. 

What to Use?

If you want to bring a touch of vibrant color to your lush garden, Red Polished Pebbles are the perfect option.

Their neutral gray shades are beautifully enhanced by striking red and golden tones. Moreover, they add flair to the walkways surrounding your residence.

They seamlessly blend aesthetic appeal with their essential purpose of guiding you through your yard. 

Beautify Outdoor Showers

beautifying outdoor showers

Owning a swimming pool is undeniably a lavish indulgence.

However, taking it up a notch by incorporating an outdoor shower allows for a refreshing chlorine rinse before reentering your home.

It is also great for those who get dirty while gardening or engaging in outdoor activities.

Incorporating natural stone into your outdoor shower stall is stunning and allows this outdoor feature to blend seamlessly with its surroundings. 

What to Use?

Black polished pebbles are a stunning and practical choice for the drain pan, offering aesthetic appeal and a comfortable feel.

These pebbles also boast exceptional drainage capabilities. 

Create River Rock Water Feature

creating river rock water feature

Incorporating a water feature into your backyard can effortlessly transform it into a serene Zen oasis.

This is especially true when you skillfully combine various harmonious natural elements. 

What to Use?

The great idea is to go with mixed polished pebbles, which you can get in shades of gray, cream, and tan.

With their sleek and peaceful appearance, these pebbles enhance any space, creating a sense of calmness and enduring elegance. 


Does river rock absorb water? Yes, river rock or gravel can absorb water.

And that is the reason why it serves as a great option for fixing drainage problems in your landscape.

But remember that river rocks are amazing but available in many types, and picking the right type greatly matters.