Build a Pond

Build a pond with these tips and advice on topography, water sources and more.

| April/May 2006

  • To create a dug-and-dammed pond, like the one in the illustration, first remove the topsoil covering the foundation area, and dig a core trench (shown as a dark gray triangle) that extends to clay or bedrock. Then fill the trench with well-compacted dense material. To prevent the dam from washing out during heavy rains, install a vertical overflow pipe and horizontal spillway pipe with anti-seep collars (to prevent leaks from developing along the pipes) at the base of the dam. The top of the overflow pipe should be about 2 1/2 feet below the top of the dam. After the pipes are installed, dig soil from the pond area and construct the dam over the core trench, with the front (water) side of the dam at a 3:1 slope and the back of the dam at a 2:1 slope.
    ERIC LINGAFELTER
  • Ponds add scenic beauty to a property and provide opportunities for boating, swimming and fishing. There also are many practical uses for a pond — livestock watering, crop irrigation, fish production, wildlife habitat and as an emergency source of water for fighting fires.
    PHOTO: DAVID CAVAGNARO
  • A small dug-and-dammed farm pond makes a great gathering place, enhancing an already idyllic setting.
    TIM MATSON
  • Adding a dock or floating raft to your farm pond will create more opportunities for summer fun.
    TIM MATSON
  • A landscaped pond provides scenic beauty as well as habitat for wildlife.
    DAVID CAVAGNARO
  • A reborn pond is full of bass, bluegill and bullfrogs, and attracts a variety of other wildlife.
    ROBIN ARNOLD

One of the first things many people say when looking out over a few acres is, “I wish I had a pond.” Ponds add scenic beauty to a property and provide opportunities for boating, swimming and fishing. There also are many practical uses for a pond — livestock watering, crop irrigation, fish production, wildlife habitat and as an emergency source of water for fighting fires.

In 1956, when my parents bought 15 acres in the country, the first thing they did was build a pond. Actually, Mom and Dad didn’t build it themselves; they hired a man with a bulldozer. The huge, yellow machine quickly scooped out a natural depression along an old fence row. Soil was piled thick and high at the lower end of the slope to form a modest earthen dam. When the rains came, the hole began filling with water. That was three years after legendary homesteaders Helen and Scott Nearing started enlarging a spring to build a pond at their new homestead in coastal Maine. True to form, the Nearings did most of the work themselves — by hand. For more than 25 years the Nearings continued to expand their pond, steadily deepening and enlarging it.

Ponds, like their owners, come in an endless variety of shapes and sizes. But each one is “a spot of beauty, a sparkling universe teeming with life,” Louis Bromfield wrote in his 1948 book, Malabar Farm. “For the children they are a source of inexhaustible delight. And like the fishponds of the abbeys and castles of medieval Europe and the Dark Ages, when all the world fell apart in anarchy and disorder, they provide not only food for the table but peace for the soul and an understanding of man’s relationship to the universe.”

Siting and Planning a Pond

Here are the main factors to evaluate before building your own pond.



Topography. As in real estate, there are three secrets to success with ponds — location, location, location. Water runs downhill, and a pond simply collects and stores water. It is the most basic form of a reservoir. Locate your pond where the largest storage volume can be obtained with the least amount of earth moving.

There are two basic ways to create a pond — digging a hole or building a dam. Usually, the form is implicit in the site — to dam or to dig — and the land reveals the answer, says Tim Matson, author of Earth Ponds.

harold
5/28/2016 8:31:21 PM

i was digging a pond and had banked up the dirt on the side to haul off at a later time. all at once the bottom of the pond started to rise and the gumbo clay started to spew up and the bank started to sink. Has anyone ever experienced anything like this. It was unreal to me. thanks for any comment. I am


Mac
4/10/2016 12:21:21 PM

KATHYC-----Dynamite. Seriously, you would have to talk to some experts to find the best way to proceed in your case.


KATHYC
7/22/2015 8:37:34 AM

Sorry for typos. I would love a small pond but live on solid rock! Any ideas?







fermentation

Fermentation Frenzy!

September 12-13, 2019
Seven Springs, Pa

Fermentation Frenzy! is produced by Fermentation magazine in conjunction with the MOTHER EARTH NEWS FAIR. This one-and-a-half day event is jam-packed with fun and informative hands-on sessions.

LEARN MORE








Subscribe Today - Pay Now & Save 64% Off the Cover Price

Money-Saving Tips in Every Issue!

Mother Earth NewsAt MOTHER EARTH NEWS, we are dedicated to conserving our planet's natural resources while helping you conserve your financial resources. You'll find tips for slashing heating bills, growing fresh, natural produce at home, and more. That's why we want you to save money and trees by subscribing through our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. By paying with a credit card, you save an additional $5 and get 6 issues of MOTHER EARTH NEWS for only $12.95 (USA only).

You may also use the Bill Me option and pay $17.95 for 6 issues.

Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
International Subscribers - Click Here
Canadian subscriptions: 1 year (includes postage & GST).


Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter flipboard

Free Product Information Classifieds Newsletters

click me