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Extension > Environment > Trees and woodlands > Forest management practices fact sheet: Managing water series > Open-top culverts

Open-top culverts

Best Management Practices (BMPs) can prevent or minimize the impact of forestry activities on rivers, lakes, streams, groundwater, wetlands, and visual quality.


Traffic surfaces such as forest roads and trails can contribute a lot of sediment and other pollutants to nearby wetlands, lakes, and streams. Open-top culverts are one option to help prevent such pollution.

Open-top culverts can serve two functions. They divert water off a traffic surface and permit water to drain across it. They are most frequently built from logs or lumber. Concrete and steel may be used for permanent installations. Design recommendations for concrete and steel will not be discussed here.

Where used

Open-top culverts are most often used on temporary or low-traffic seasonal roads and trails because they require more maintenance than most other options. They should be removed when the road or trail is closed permanently.


When building an open-top culvert:



Open-top culverts are inexpensive. They can be built from logs and lumber and installed with hand tools on site. They permit easy movement of all vehicles.


Open-top culverts need frequent maintenance to keep them in good working order.


Clean soil, slash, and other debris frequently from open-top culverts. Remove culverts when the site is closed to prevent plugging.

University of Minnesota Extension Service, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Minnesota Logger Education Program, Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Michigan State University Extension, and Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

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