Now that summer is upon us, many of us are ready to turn our attention from our interior home decor to our yards and gardens. Whether you are looking to spruce up your flower beds, build a new patio or totally overhaul your outdoor space, using river rock might be the way to go. We have compiled a list of 30 landscaping designs to help make your outdoor space a relaxing haven this summer.

1. A Relaxing Dry River Bed. Winding dry river beds is such an interesting landscaping idea! This one uses small, rounded stones to create twists and turns and let your eyes stroll passed your favorite planters towards the pride of your lawn, whether that is a favorite tree or, in this case, a fountain.

Dry River Bed Landscaping Idea

via @avantgardefloraldesignstudio

2. A Smooth Contrast. Using river rock to line the path or steps up to your front door adds some serious curb appeal to your home. In this design, the stone creates a nice contrast to the smooth concrete steps and provides a neutral backdrop allowing the green of the grass and trees to really pop.

Patio Steps River Rock Landscaping

via @twincreekspc

3. Flagstones Rugged Retreat. Large, rough-cut river rocks can help transform your backyard into a rugged retreat that will have you feeling like you’re only steps from a vast wilderness. Here, the larger stones create paths and boundaries, while medium and small rocks fill in the extra space around the fire pit seating area.

Backyard Fire Pit with River Rock Landscaping

via @alteredgroundslandscaping

4. Pretty Pebbles. Different-sized river rocks serve different purposes in landscape design, with pebbles having some of the most versatile uses. These small smooth stones can be used to line flower beds or gardens, but they also make an excellent, low-maintenance substitute for grass.

Cozy Backyard Idea with Round Coffee Table Potted Plants and River Rock Pavement

via @edwardianhouserenovation

5. Sweet Succulents. Many people are moving away from traditional grass lawns due to their upkeep and watering requirements, opting for easy to care for cacti and succulents instead. If this is something you are interested in, river rocks provide a gorgeous backdrop to your greenery and the drainage these drought-hardy plants need.

Large and Small Round River Rocks Pathway in the Backyard

via @littlesucculentshop_

6. The Natural Choice. Whether a swimming pool or a simple fish pond, water features bring a sense of tranquility to your yard. Instead of a wide border of plain concrete, consider using river rocks to give your space a lovely and natural feel. Here you can see the stones used to create a barrier around the edge of the pond and as covering for some plant beds.

Backyard Pond Landscaping with River Rock Edging

via @climapod

7. Steep Slope River Rock Landscaping. Not every backyard is flat and easy to use, but don’t assume that hills or rises on the backyard make it unusable space. With the use of some landscape fabric and river rocks, you can turn unused square footage into amazing visual features. Add in some large boulders, shrubs, or statues to make the space truly your own.

Sloped Patio White Rock Landscaping

via @naturdeco_

8. Fountain Foundation. Using river rocks is an excellent way to create a frame for your favorite piece of outdoor art. And by choosing stones of a similar size and color, you give the area a clean, modern vibe. Of course, this landscaping idea works best within a larger paved area or clearly defined rock bed.

Modern Backyard Fountain White River Rock Landscaping

via @rayesgarden

9. Goodbye Weeds. Flower beds add curb appeal and beauty to your front yard, but they can be a lot of work. Why not trade out a traditional soil bed for a rock bed? By laying down landscaping fabric and covering the top with rocks, you severely inhibit weed growth and reduce the maintenance you have to keep up with. You can add flowers in large pots for pops of color or plant larger shrubs through holes cut in your fabric.

House Foundation with Pebbles and Shrubs

via @yekcir1983

10. Driveway Drainage. Paved driveways don’t only look nice, but also add value to your property. However, over time, they can erode along the edges. One great way to prevent erosion is to line the sides of your driveway with river rock. This creates better drainage and will extend the life of your driveway.

Gravel Landscaping Near the Driveway

via @ra_landscaping

11. Water Less. Keeping an entire yard watered and green can be time-consuming and expensive, especially if you live in a hot, dry climate. These homeowners have wisely alleviated some of that by turning half of their yard into a lovely rock garden and laying large flagstones to create a walking path.

Hot Climate River Rock Landscaping Ideas

via @fredricksonlandscapeinc

12. Perfect Pedestals. In addition to making an excellent ground cover, you can also use landscaping stones to build custom pedestals for your planters and lawn statues. This can be done with pavers or large, flat river rocks and will help your decor stand out from the surrounding lawn.

Backyard Landscaping with Privacy Shield Large Pots and River Rocks

via @hideaway_screens

13. Rough and Rustic Steps. Consider trading your wooden steps for large river stones with raw edges for a more rustic and natural look to your landscaping. Once installed, these stone steps look amazing and require very little upkeep.

Sloped Backyard Large Rock Steps and Smaller Stones Edging

via @grooutdoorliving

14. Move Over Mulch. Wood mulch has long been the most popular ground cover for flower beds, but that is beginning to change. Using small river rocks in the beds that line your home help eliminate drainage problems and keep your foundation dry. Stone mulch also lasts longer and doesn’t fade in the sun.

Blower Beds Around House Foundation with Black River Rock

via @going_green_property_solutions

15. Stunning Centerpiece. A large shady tree is an asset to any front yard. So naturally, you want to do whatever you can to keep it healthy and thriving. Creating a frame around the base of your tree and filling it with stones helps solve drainage problems, helps insulate roots and keeps weeds from stealing your tree’s nutrients.

Patio with River Rock Landscaping around a Large Tree

via @marlinlandscape

16. Easy Watering. Choosing drought-resistant plants and river rock over flowers and soil makes watering a less frequent chore and makes it super easy. You can see here the homeowner has run piping directly from their spigot into the rock bed, meaning all they need to do is turn the faucet on for a few minutes and let the water disperse throughout the bed. And no soil means no muddy mess.

House Basement Flower Bed with Succulents and Multi Colored River Rocks

via @easygreenlandscaping

17. Sturdy Walkway. Consider exchanging the old, crumbly walkway for stepping stones and gravel. Lay flat pavers and fill the surrounding area with rocks to create drainage and help keep your pavers in place. This easy weekend project will have your front yard looking fresh and new by Monday.

Stepping Stones and Creek Rock Walkway

via @keystoneoutdoorliving

18. Fantastic Footpath. Choose border stones that retain a rough edge to give the backyard walkway or footpath a more organic look. A rustic rock border is easy to build with your own hands, and there is no need for them to line up perfectly. Small gaps and imperfections just make it feel more natural. You can even opt for large stones with different colors that you find while out hiking or traveling.

Shed Walkway with Small River Rock Between Flagstones

via @avesistormwater

19. Patio River Rock Landscaping. A winding river bed of monochrome rocks can be a lovely addition to your front yard, but by itself, it can also seem plain and stark. To keep your new feature from being a bore, add some interest with a strategically placed boulder or some flowering shrubs. This will give your yard some character while remaining low maintenance.

Driveway Patio Edge River Rock Landscaping with Garden Shrubs

via @fredricksonlandscapeinc

20. Paved Patio and Small River Rocks. Building a seating area doesn’t need to be a major project. Instead of spending a small fortune on lumber and labor, save time and money by building yourself a patio out of paving stones. The great thing about this landscaping idea is that it can be accomplished in a yard of almost any size and can be built in whatever shape best fits your space.

Round Metal Table and River Rock Landscaping Idea

via @gardenstone.co.uk

21. Personal Pond. A great way to bring a tranquil feeling to your yard and attract wildlife is to build a pond. Choose an unused piece of your yard or garden and dig a large hole. Once you have the width and depth you want, line your hole with black plastic and ring the edge with large stones to keep everything in place. Guests will be impressed with your ingenuity and love sitting out near your new oasis.

DIY Pond in the Backyard with Big River Rock Edging

via @gowild_outdoors

22. High Desert Inspiration. This absolutely gorgeous landscaping idea uses river rock and mulch to create a high desert vibe. The winding path looks like a dry creek bed filled with rocks of different sizes. To keep things from being too sparse, a few desert plants dot the surrounding area and bring some green to the earthy-toned landscape.

Dry River Bed Idea with Different Size River Rocks and Succulents

via @fredricksonlandscapeinc

23. High Contrast Landscaping. With so many options of landscaping rock and mulch on the market, don’t feel like you are limited to just one. In this design, the homeowners have used different colors of stone and mulch to create distinct areas separated by rock walls. In addition, the slate tiles make a lovely patio area for enjoying a morning coffee.

Backyard Lounge Zone Edging with Mulch and River Rock Edges

via @bleedinghearthome

24. Excellent Edging. Even if you prefer grass’s look and feel for most of your yard, there are still plenty of ways to incorporate river rock into your landscaping. One excellent use is to build rock beds along the edge of your yard where you can plant trees and shrubs. The rocks provide proper drainage, while the plants provide shade and privacy for your yard.

Black and White Creek Rock Landscaping

via @kndlandscape

25. Rain Gardens. Not only are river rocks an excellent drainage solution, but you can also use them to irrigate your yard. By using small to medium rocks and building stream beds that lead away from the downspout of your gutters and into flower beds or drought-prone areas of your yard, you provide regular freshwater with very little work. These miniature creeks also add charm and whimsy touches to your backyard.

Rain Garden for Solving the Backyard Drainage Problems

via @avesistormwater

26. Plank and River Rock Path. Having a designated walkway through your yard looks great and also helps protect your grass and other plants from being damaged. One low-cost way to build a beautiful walking path is to use wide planks of old wood and river rock. First, seal your wooden steps and then lay them out how you want, surrounding them with stones to help keep them in place.

Garden Walkway with Wooden Planks and Small River Rocks

via @gardenstone.co.uk

27. Every Shape and Size. Landscaping stones are some of the most versatile additions you can make to your yard. Here, the homeowners have used different rock sizes and styles to create several distinct areas on their lawn. They have utilized small pebbles in place of traditional mulch, medium-sized stones for walkway borders, and large pavers to build multiple walking paths.

Modern Design River Rock Landscaping Ideas

via @greengurulandscaping_official

28. Natural Wonders. The addition of water features such as a pond or reflecting pool can help you feel close to nature, even in a bustling neighborhood. Using large, rough stones to edge your pool will help it seem more natural. And lining the bottom with rounded river rocks makes it a relaxing spot to dip your toes on a warm day.

Garden Pool and Lounge Zone River Rock Landscaping

via @ourgarden64

29. Rock Garden. Rock gardens have been popular in Eastern cultures for hundreds of years, and as concerns about water conservation have grown here, so has their popularity. Rock gardens are incredibly easy to build in whatever space you have available. Of course, you can always plant a couple of flowering cacti or other desert plants for some added color.

Simple Rock Garden and Old Sewing Machine Backyard Landscaping

via @devinberryhill.art

30. Smooth and Secure. Many landscaping designs built around river rock feature loose gravel, which, while beautiful, is not the most pleasant for bare feet and can end up in your shoes or scattered around. One way to combat this is by setting your stones in concrete as you would tile with grout. Doing this with smooth river rocks gives you a long-lasting landscape feature that won’t be easily dislodged.

River Rock Walkway with Baby Step Platform

via @myettemasonryanddesign

If you are still struggling with finding your backyard inspiration, take a minute to consider your favorite travel destination. Do you like to head to the mountains? Maybe the desert is more your vibe? Perhaps none of the above, and you’d rather visit a modern art exhibit at a local museum? Regardless of your style, there is a way to use river rock to incorporate it into your outdoor space. It just takes a little imagination.

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Shawn Cregar
I am naturally curious, and I love all things design. My demeanor leans towards chatty, but I prefer to call it eloquent and feel it makes me a better writer because I am well practiced at expressing opinions and ideas.

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