Patricia Michael, MFA
Landscape Designer and Permaculture Consultant

A Wildland Stairway

The Landscape problem

The owners' spring-fed swimming pool was difficult to access. On one side is a stone cliff with seeping springs; a stream enters and leaves the pool through a small canyon, and on the bank in the direction of the house is a very rocky slope of 25 to 45 degrees. There are several small two-and-a-half to three-and-a-half foot drop-offs. The area is prone to flash flooding, and the water may rise as much as twenty feet. Each flood rearranges downed tree trunks, brush and smaller boulders.

The Solution

Patricia designed a switch-back stairway on the ridge of the slope. The highest part of the stairs connects with the easiest access path to the house and the lowest part of the stairs ends near the most desirable entry point to the swimming hole. At the top of the stairs she put several stone benches and a platform where people can off-load and organize supplies and wait for friends and family. All along the stairs she placed wider steps with benches for resting and readjustment. she put these where shelves of natural rock formations are near the surface and it was convenient to anchor the bench into the slope. These areas have become popular places for conversation and viewing the scenery. They allow people of varying degrees of physical fitness to access the beautiful, clean, clean water.
 


The lower landing and the switch-back stairway
 

The stairs are over 425 feet long, and end in a level platform where the slope of the ground levels off above the floodway. The platform is the center of activity for parties of all sizes. It has withstood several large floods, including one that was described as the biggest in known history. These images show the stairs in their final stages of completion.
 


Patricia was fortunate to find an excellent stonemason who could build her design
 

The stairs and lower landing from above
 

The goal: access to this creek bottom
 
The stonemasons did some other work on the property as well.
 

Path and fire circle near the main house
 

Steps at the main house
 

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