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How to Collect River Rocks

Corinne Garcia

The smooth textures, rounded shapes and pale, earthy colors of river rock make it ideal for natural home decorating projects or backyard landscaping. River rocks are formed by the tumultuous effects moving water has on rock.

After years of smashing into each other the sharp edges are worn off rocks and water erodes it creating a smoothness.

For interior uses, some collect large river rocks for building a rock fireplace or small ones to fill a glass bowl for simple decoration. Outdoor uses include decorative rock gardens and river rock walls and patios.

  1. Decide how you intend to put your river rock collection to use, thus determining what size rocks you need and what tools you'll need to transport them back to your home. For example, if you intend to build a rock wall, you want to start a collection of larger rocks and need a wheelbarrow for transport. For a collection of smaller rocks, a bucket is sufficient.

  2. Search for locations with an abundance of desirable river rock before gathering the rocks. This includes places where rocks can be removed without leaving any trace or negatively effecting the environment. Rivers that move fast in the springtime with high water are good places to search out rocks in the fall, when the water levels are lower. Another good collection spot is under or near waterfalls where rocks have been tumbled and eroded.

  3. Start collecting at your chosen spot, looking for rocks that are appealing for your chosen project, and making sure not to take them all from one spot. Look for rocks that are similar in size and color, or ones that vary, depending on the desired outcome.

  4. Fill the bucket or wheelbarrow and bring the load back to your vehicle, using the tarp to cover the car upholstery before putting the rocks inside. Go back for more if needed.


Leave no trace at collection sites so others can enjoy them as well.


Make sure to stay off of private lands.

Make sure it is permissible to remove rocks from chosen collection locations before doing so.