Low water stream crossings for trails and greenways

Concrete structures near water level bridge rivers and drainages.

Low water crossings are designed to allow normal flow under the trail, and to be over-topped during seasonal floods.

by Stuart Macdonald, Trail Consultant, American Trails

August 17, 2018

Pink concrete edges give visual warning on low water crossing over Cherry Creek at Holly Street bridge, Denver; photo by Stuart Macdonald, 14 Oct 09

Much wider than culverts, these structures cross over drainageways at the same grade as the trail surface. Low water crossings are designed to allow normal flow under the trail, and to be over-topped during seasonal floods. Concrete is the normal material used to withstand flooding and scouring from flowing water. Bridges are typically raised well above the waterway and at least above the 100-year flood level. Railings are typically not used on low water crossings, although the structure may be wider than the normal trail width. Similar structures are used to carry trails over streams under road bridges. Narrow channels may be cut in the concrete to allow moderate water flow through rather than under the trail itself.

Photos in this Collection

Trail crosses stream in open space park on side trail along Four Mile Run in Arlington, Virginia

Low water crossing on side trail along Four Mile Run in Arlington, Virginia

Concrete structure carries trail over a small stream at Bible Park in Denver, Colorado

Concrete structure carries trail over a small stream at Bible Park in Denver, Colorado

Cherry Creek Trail in Denver, Colorado is crossed by both a steel trail bridge and low-water concrete trail structure

Waller Creek Trail in Austin, Texas crosses the stream underneath a street bridge

Cherry Creek Trail in Denver, Colorado is crossed by both a steel trail bridge and low-water concrete trail structure

Built in 2006, the Janet Fish Pedestrian Bridge honors the founder of the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail in Austin, Texas

Janet Fish Pedestrian Bridge in Austin, Texas

Low water crossing before trail enters road culvert on the Clear Creek Trail in Wheat Ridge, Colorado

Low bridge over tributary to Cherry Creek built in 2009 at Monaco Street in Denver, Colorado

Low water crossing over Cherry Creek at Broadway Street bridge in Denver, Colorado

Pink concrete edges give visual warning on low water crossing over Cherry Creek at Holly Street bridge in Denver, Colorado

Low water crossing built in 2009 on Cherry Creek Trail in Denver, Colorado

About the Author

Stuart Macdonald spent 19 years as Colorado's State Trails Coordinator. He is the editor of American Trails Magazine. During 1998-99, he represented State Trail Administrators on the national committee that proposed regulations for accessible trails. He chaired the National Recreational Trails Committee, which advised the Federal Highway Administration in the first years of the Recreational Trails Program. Stuart grew up in San Diego and his main outdoor interest besides trails is surfing. He has a BA in English from San Francisco State and a Masters in Landscape Architecture from Utah State.

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