Fixing muddy sections...
I tried to search to see if it was covered but no results.
One of the trails I ride has a handful of muddy sections. They are on flat areas of the trail, I guess these spots are just slightly lower than the rest of the trail and hold water after it rains. Of course people ride through and it turns into a mud hole, then people start riding around it widening the trail in that spot. I was wanting to go out and try to fix some of the spots but want to do it in the most sustainable way possible. I'd assume filling the areas in with dirt would be the way to do it, but I've often assumed things and been wrong. The only hole that's been "repaired" on the trail is a spot that's always wet and they made a stick "bridge" across the mud hole. Pretty much just laid sticks across the trail in the mud hole so that bike tires don't sink into the mud making the hole deeper. Seems to work ok, not sure if that's the best way. So I wanted to ask before I went out and tried to fix things and possibly waste my time doing it wrong and maybe even making it worse.
Any rock nearby?
If you're going to used dirt make sure it's mineral soil with no organic matter. If you have enough dirt and help you can build a series of rollers so there's no flat spots. They could be pump track style or long gentle ones. Long and gentle are better for hikers and runners.
Make sure to dig out all organic mater before doing anything.
There's a big difference between ripping and skidding. Those who skid don't know how to ride.
Firstly, check to see if the trail has proper outsloping and is not cupped (middle of the tread is lower than the edges). We recently fixed many wet areas just by deberming the outer edge of sections of trail.
The next best option will be to see if there is any higher ground nearby that the trail can be rerouted to. Water is going to collect in the lowest areas and if your trail runs through these areas will probably continue to be an issue.
If reroutes are not possible, try go drain the water from these low sections by digging ditches to an even lower area. You may need to temporarily add armoring to the top of the soil to allow it to dry before becoming re-rutted.
Filling in low wet areas with dirt probably won't work if they are continuously wet because the added dirt will quickly become saturated and turn into an even deeper mud hole. This will only work if the whole mud pit has time to dry before people ride through it again (not very likely).
We have found the cordurory method you mentioned to be largely ineffective and many times makes the problem worse (we have largely silt/clay soils). In my experience the logs block water from draining across the trail as it should, water then tries to flow around the cordurory, and it quickly saturates the trail before and after the cordurory creating an even larger wet spot. The logs also tend to rot quickly and need replacement after 1-2 years. I would steer clear of this method.
Another option is a boardwalk. We are currently crossing 100+ feet of groundwater spring-fed clay trail using this method. After 4 years of trying the other methods, this seems to be the only solution for this particular area.
The last, and most labor intensive, option is to build a turnpike. This involves raising the trail bed with gravel above the surrounding ground level.
some pics would be helpful..what follows is what I would do if...
if you are describing relatively short mud holes.. 5 to 10 feet in length. with some nice dry trail for 20,30,40 yards.in between the offending mudholes. sounds like a one man tackle job can do wonders.(meaning. no budget, scavenge local material, doing it yourself)
I would dig out all the muck/mud. and if you have a good source of mineral soil, clay near by (sometimes the root ball of a blowdown reveals a good source) pack it in well every few inches till you build up the layer...to meet the surrounding tread.. now if you have water crossing the trail at that spot.. I have found large corduroy "culvert to work well, talking logs at least 8 inches in diameter...I typicially dig a Y channel to help guide the water under and through to the other side, and put down some longer more narrow log/branches in the channel with the logs over it... and have some of these that are on their 8th year, but it all depends on the source wood, type of wood, etc... some people hate them, some like them,, what I like about Corduroy culvert is that is doesn't get plugged up. really no maintenance, keep s the natural look, and if you got some Locust , they will last a good ten years... but.... that's my experience..
if you are talking of a longer section 10 yards or more of wet and mud, you could dig a canal on each side of the tread, thus making a lower spot for the water to gravitate to.. mind you I think this works best in clay soil,, it's a lot of digging,, but you are essentially creating an "elevated trail section" by lowering the the terrain on each side..
if you have the manpower, gravel, lumber, etc... then you have all sorts of other possibilities...
I'll get some pictures next time I'm there. They are small areas with long stretches in between. Definitely within the 5-10 foot long range, most of them anyways. The surrounding area isn't wet so it's not like it's seepage from the ground. Basically just puddles in the middle of the trail that get ridden through and this year with all the rain, never seem to dry. The soil in these area is really dark, almost black, so I'm thinking it's pretty organic, little to no clay like soil. There's a handful of blow down so next time I'll check around the root ball of some of the trees to see if there's suitable soil to be used. I don't even know who does the trail maintenance on this trail system, that's something I want to find out. The whole trail needs a good pruning and I wanted to get the ok before I started doing too much to the trails. I ride it often enough that I feel like I should give back and help maintain them, but I'm new to it so I want to learn and make sure I'm doing it right.
As far as the corduroy section, that's a pretty long section...I'd say 20+ feet long and it has never been dry that I've seen. I think that one is fed from the ground. The wet muddy area is pretty wide too. I think it's bad enough that a bridge of sorts would be the best bet to take care of that one. The sticks seem to work ok, and honestly I like riding the feature, but I'd rather see the trail stay in good shape even at the cost of the ripples. A bridge I'm sure would be cool to ride as well. There's several of them on the trail across streams anyways.
Anyways, thanks for the ideas so far. I'll definitely reevaluation the areas closer next time I'm there so that I can try to figure out exactly what's going on and choose the best course of action.
What we do for small muddy patches is to add gravel sized stones and embed them bit by bit over time. When the ground starts to feel like jelly under the tamper, it's time to leave it alone and come back another day to add more. Eventually the puddle and depression are filled with stones and any water runs off. it seems to become a permanent fix.
Drain the holes dry. Scrape all the organic and muck out. I like to take more duff material from the side of the trail and throw it into the scraped out hole to absorb even more moisture. They drier you get the hole, the better your repair is going to take.
Now go off the trail and dig a borrow pit. Make sure you get through the duff/organic level to mineral soil. Fill up the hole in the trail, compacting as you go. In really flat areas, we will dig a drain out next to the trail to ensure positive drainage. We also have been amending our repairs with 5/8" minus gravel. Helps them from rutting back out.
Here is an example. Hard to see, but we dug a drain sump on the right side of the trail.
In flat terrain you can dig a small retention area next to the trail and drain the water into it. We use the dirt to contour the tread to direct the water into the retention area.
I ride with the best people.
One thing that I have learned is you (in most cases) want the water to drain to the inside corner. Some times based on the trail in may be easier to drain to the outside but that is the most traveled section of trail. Over time the tires will push soil out blocking the drain path. The inside corner typically will not have that issue. Looks like your fix is solid!!
Paving with large flat rocks is often a good solution to let water drain through an area. Get permission from the land owner/ manager first.
I dunno if this is accepted technique but an easy fix in wooded areas for those small mud spots, like riding across a natural draining depression is just laying a layer of broken sticks across the trail in the spot, it may not be a bridge or anything fancy but keeps the tires from digging out the soil. The water can still drain the way it has for minimal impact and does not require digging or anything. Of course not for longer sections but have used.
Thank you for posting this. What you have suggested is something that is done frequently. It does offer a quick fix and the materials required are readily available and you can ride what you fixed immediately and it is all OK. However and please do not take this as any personal criticism, it is not the answer to this or any other drainage problem.
Originally Posted by dirkdaddy
Timber has a trailbuilding lifespan of - nil. While it rots, it holds the water and mud you were trying to get past. It collapses under the weight of wheels and is slop all too soon. Then it has to be removed to get back to the mineral base and start the repair again. Removing half rotted wood is not easy and you never know what will be there after it is gone. Therefore planning how to remedy the situation is guesswork.
While it is really tempting to try to fix something quickly, especially if you want to help, the best solutions are made of stone. Stone and gravel plus regular reviews with more added stone and gravel are the go. In an ideal world trail would sit long enough to cure and handle all future insults before being opened, but the reality is that little ulcers will appear and there is no simple (sticky) cure to an ulcer.
No offense taken, I have little trail building experience but have done hiking trail stuff when I lived up East, so your input is valuable.
Originally Posted by Ridnparadise
However, bear in mind that geography is varied, some areas you have to look for dirt there are so many rocks, but in the Houston TX area where I am I challenge you to find rocks for your trail unless you go buy them somewhere. Really, its like living on a river delta except the soil is gumbo instead of fertile sediment. So rocks maybe the best solution, here its a no-go. We have plenty of rain and flat trails that mud up, they would require so much heavy work and get so soft and killer sticky as to be totally unridable (like your tire getting over an inch of mud stuck to it), the only solution is to wait and/or go elsewhere. There are some trails up north of us that drain faster being sandy soil.
Hope I am not being too pissy, just giving varied feedback. I am enjoying reading about trail building and aim to learn a lot reading on the subject here, I have some cool ideas for trails and glad for this forum.
Last edited by dirkdaddy; 07-08-2013 at 08:56 AM.
Reason: make less pissy
Originally Posted by Ridnparadise
If you are going to take the time to "Fix" a trouble spot, do it right the first time.
I hear you and it's true that where you are can dictate what you can do. You do have a problem there. When you can't create effective rolling grade dips to get water off a trail and there is nothing available to stabilise it with, then you have to hope riders stay away when the trails are wet. Hopefully you have more luck with that than we do here.
Originally Posted by dirkdaddy
This is where professional builders with imported materials and trail hardening compounds have it all over trailcare volunteers. Sometimes I think land managers see what can be done with a clean canvass and expect that repairing marginal trail sections can be done just as successfully. It is so much harder to make something great second (or subsequent) time round.
Good luck with it. I can see why adding wood to sludge may be necessary, given an alternative of extensive stretches of elevated trail.
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