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River Projects: Stream Crossings

Shows side of a culvert that has a stream flowing through it and runs under a trail. Photo courtesy Jim MacCartney.

Stream crossings present particular challenges to those involved with their design, construction, and maintenance. Every time a trail or road crosses a stream it creates the risk of disturbing a dynamic, complex, and unique ecological system. Understanding the potential effects of stream crossings and developing ways to reduce or eliminate disturbance requires interdisciplinary knowledge and skills from a range of sciences including hydrology, biology, geomorphology, hydraulics, and structural engineering. The National Park Service is helping to meet the challenges of stream crossings by providing technical assistance to states, local governments, and communities. This website is intended to serve as a clearinghouse for information transfer about meeting the challenges of stream crossings.




Trails from a Rivers Point of View: A poetic perspective on stream crossings



American Trails (AT): Trail Design and Construction- sections with links to trail design, construction, surfacing, and signage. Most links go to short articles or book reviews

Best links on AT site:

  • NPS North County NST "Handbook for Trail Design, Construction, and Maintenance," esp. CH. 3 and 5
  • USFS from FHA website "Wetland Trail Design and Construction" Steinholz and Vachowski 2001
  • USFS Trail Construction and Maintenance Notebook 2004 ed.
  • IMBA "Trailbuilding Basics", a shortened manual

Appalachian Trail Conference: Stream Crossings and Bridges - short policy statements from group

International Mountain Biking Association: Trail Solutions: IMBA's Guide to Building Sweet Singletrack - Link to buy manual

U.S. Forest Service: National Trail Drawings and Specifications

U.S. Forest Service: Trail Bridge Catalogue

University of Florida School of Forest Resources and Conservation: Trails, Bridges and Boardwalks - more concise than print guides but with quality illustration links; covers trail routing, erosion control, bridges, boardwalks, and other methods

University of Minnesota Extension Service: Recreational Trail Design and Construction - similar to University of Florida document

Western Trailbuilders Association: Publications on Trail Planning, Design, Construction & Maintenance - list of books and publications on topic


Federal Highway Administration – Bridge Technology: Hydraulics Publications – Current

Federal Highway Administration: River Engineering for Highway Encroachment

Federal Highway Administration: Stream Stability at Highway Structures

Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife: Guidelines and Criteria for Stream-Road Crossings

U.S. Forest Service: A Landowner’s Guide to Building Forest Access Roads

U.S. Forest Service: Water-Road Interaction Technology Series Documents

Fish Passage

British Columbia Ministry of Forestry: Fish-stream Crossing Guidebook

California Department of Fish and Game: California Salmonid Stream Habitat Restoration Manual

California Department of Fish and Game: Fish Passage Evaluation at Stream Crossings

Federal Highway Administration: Programs to Remove Fish Passage Barriers

For the Sake of Salmon: Oregon Road/Stream Crossing Restoration Guide

International Mountain Biking Association: Fish Prefer Bridges

National Marine Fisheries Service: Guidelines for Salmonid Passage at Stream Crossings

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service: Geomorphologic Impacts of Culvert Replacement and Removal

U.S. Forest Service: FishXing

U.S. Forest Service: Identifying Barriers to Aquatic Organism Passage at Road-Stream Crossings

U.S. Roads: Designing Highway Culverts that do not Impede the Movements of Resident Fish Species

University of Washington: Juvenile and Resident Salmonid Movement and Passage through Culverts

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Design of Road Culverts for Fish Passage

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife: Fish Passage Technical Assistance

Wild Salmon Center: Culvert Installation in Salmon Streams

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