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Pond Building among Rock

Posts: 37
Location: Boise, Idaho
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Hi all,
We have a wonderful 160 acre spread that is primarily a small isolated valley.  The whole property has lots and lots of rock, and lots of clay.
I would love to have a couple ponds, especially one atop the hill behind the house as a source for emergency and fire-fighting water, as well as being a joyful addition for us and wildlife.

Is it possible to build a successful pond amongst the rock and clay?  It would take heavy equipment to dig or cut out - but am I just asking for problems with sealing it, or are there tricks and tactics I can use successfully?

Thanks for any input!

Posts: 900
Location: North Georgia / Appalachian mountains , Zone 7B/8A
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There are so many variables there that there is really no answer except to try.
Make a smaller pond hole first in that location, and see how well it holds water with out additional steps.
This will give you an idea where to go from there.

I started a pond in one part of my property that ended up having bedrock just a few feet down.
It only holds water a day or so after a big rain, so now I consider it a swale.  I put some soil and organic material in the bottom, added some clover,
and it works great for concentrating water and fertility in that one spot.
Posts: 19
Location: Ontario, Canada
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Building ponds on shelf rock is not a good idea. These usually have cracks that allow water to run away. If the rocks are mostly bolder and smaller round rocks, then they should seal with clay.
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It depends...

Here we have shale type ledge and water actually stays on top of it because it does not drain down. I have a hay field that has a lot of ledge in it, and when we go from the crest of one ledge to the other...about 200 feet apart, the trucks make ruts even in the dead of summer! The reason is the water just lies there. If there is a drought, it will dry up naturally, but in a regular year, it just pools.

I do a lot of land clearing and sometimes landowners throw a pond into a land clearing project. Last year I had a project like that. The guy wanted a "water feature" about half way down an incredibly steep mountainside that was almost pure ledge. The original plan was to put in a single pond, but the grade was not working with me. The far side of the pond would have had to been 12 feet deep and solid ledge kept me at 3 feet! So in the end, I split the two ponds in half, and installed a high culvert with a gravel road between them, rocked and sloped for looks. This made two ponds, but kept the second pond from draining the first pond, backwards from where we wanted the outlet to flow.

So then I started digging the second pond. This was tough because the uphill side was steep, solid ledge and about 20 feet high. All I had was a 28 foot excavator so that was no good. I ended up down in the hole, and baling soil to the downhill (ish) side, and building  it up, then going above that and baling the soil out again. I dislike moving the same dirt twice, but sometimes it must be done. But it was like you describe, on a steep hill, very rocky (boulders the size of a queen size bed), and lots of clay. I hit some springs which was shocking, but a few weeks ago I went back to see how the project had fared the winter, and the ponds looked good. They still need work, and I am not happy with one end of the second pond...it just looks unfinished, but at that point it was December, winter had set in, and the guy had spent enough money. I'll go back eventually, but it was a good job and came out well enough.

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