First Timer, Building a pondless waterfall into a slope. Questions....


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So I’m looking at building my own pondless waterfall into a pretty big slope in my backyard. I have started digging the hole for the basin, and loosely laid some rocks out to get an idea of what things might look like.
Here is what I have so far.


Before I get too deep into the project, I have a few beginner questions.
  1. Since there is a natural slope, besides the basin and maybe areas for larger rocks, do I need to dig the trench or where I want the water to flow? In picture one, the red line, should this area be dug out a bit or is the natural slope enough. What about the rocks, I’ve left these sitting here for a few months without any digging to get them in place. they don’t seem to have moved. Is this safe or should I do something else?
  2. My biggest concern is basin area. You can see the scale of what I’ve dug up so far (that’s a 27 gallon storage bin) and it’s a weird shape due to retaining wall, so the area curves a bit. I’m guessing I could get a few matrix blocks in there along with the pump, but will this be enough? I am planning on digging about 2 feet deep. Dimensions of everything below.
  3. Any other tips? From a few months of research, I think I’m doing most things right, but am I doing something totally wrong? Soon enough I’ll order a medium size pondless kit and lots of rocks and get her going.
Blue line - 20 feet Red line - 5 feet Yellow line - 4 feet Purple line - 2.5 feet Green line - 2 feet
 
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Mmathis

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Hello and welcome! Hopefully you will get some helpful comments. That’s going to be awesome!

Where do you live?
 
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heres a couple videos to get your head wraped in this is a good start.
After that if i get what your thinking, for you to have a stream of that width is going to take a ton of energy to push that much water. The third video on the link below has a very nice design for a stream coming down a hill side that does have a good amount of water flow coming down the hill but its expensive to run but not so much that its out of reach for a lot of folks. instead of a wide straight down the hill side approach i'd make the stream wander with s turns as it comes down the hill. There are many videos in the link i just sent . One other trick that the first video on the first page does is it does not pump from the bottom of the stream tot he top but only looks like it does pumping up in height is called head pressure and requires a strong expensive to buy and run pumps.


Yes digging into the hill side dropping the stream into the hill is what mother nature does it erodes the soil and makes channels
streams can be tricky but once you understand the theory and principles anyone can build one
 
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1. Yes. You need to dig so the rocks sit INTO the slope. Imagine this - a waterfall in nature is created when water rushes down an incline. Over time the water will dig a path into the landscape, moving anything that it can move. And it keeps digging until it can't dig anymore - the deeper it gets, the more water it holds. What's left behind is the rocks that are too big for the water to push. You are trying to recreate that natural look. If you build ON TOP of the natural slope, the end result will look like rocks piled on a hillside. Not at all natural or pleasing to the eye.

Also, you need your water level to be below the level of your liner. So many times I've seen people think they can just get water to flow over the top of rocks on the way down a hill. Yes, SOME water will flow down hill, but most of it will find an easier path. Dig out the path that your water will flow so the end result is a concave courseway, lined with EPDM that keeps the water level below the edge of the liner. THEN install your rocks. I've seen people build a waterfall by digging the shape of the waterfall, lining it, and putting rocks on top... then they try to figure out how to keep the water from flowing over the sides.

My last suggestion is a straight line down a hill will rarely happen in nature. You'd have twists and turns as the water makes it's way down the hill. Again - way more natural and eye appealing than water just flowing down the hillside.

2. The basin is fine. Get as many blocks in as you can. You can even cut the blocks to fit your space if you're so inclined. Otherwise, fit as many as you can and then fill the void space with other things - we used some scrap PVC piping in ours. Just drilled them full of holes and piled them in the basin.

3. My only other advice is vary the size of your boulders - a well built waterfall uses as FEW rocks as possible. A whole bunch of smaller rocks will only look like a bunch of small rocks lined up. Not that you can't use what you have - just get yourself some sizable boulders to incorporate. And add some other elements - wood is always a good choice. Fall logs, drift wood, old stumps with roots. All look good and really add to the natural look.

And do look at some Aquascape YouTube videos if you haven't already - everything I know I learned from watching those guys!

Good luck!
 
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1. Yes. You need to dig so the rocks sit INTO the slope. Imagine this - a waterfall in nature is created when water rushes down an incline. Over time the water will dig a path into the landscape, moving anything that it can move. And it keeps digging until it can't dig anymore - the deeper it gets, the more water it holds. What's left behind is the rocks that are too big for the water to push. You are trying to recreate that natural look. If you build ON TOP of the natural slope, the end result will look like rocks piled on a hillside. Not at all natural or pleasing to the eye.

Also, you need your water level to be below the level of your liner. So many times I've seen people think they can just get water to flow over the top of rocks on the way down a hill. Yes, SOME water will flow down hill, but most of it will find an easier path. Dig out the path that your water will flow so the end result is a concave courseway, lined with EPDM that keeps the water level below the edge of the liner. THEN install your rocks. I've seen people build a waterfall by digging the shape of the waterfall, lining it, and putting rocks on top... then they try to figure out how to keep the water from flowing over the sides.

My last suggestion is a straight line down a hill will rarely happen in nature. You'd have twists and turns as the water makes it's way down the hill. Again - way more natural and eye appealing than water just flowing down the hillside.

2. The basin is fine. Get as many blocks in as you can. You can even cut the blocks to fit your space if you're so inclined. Otherwise, fit as many as you can and then fill the void space with other things - we used some scrap PVC piping in ours. Just drilled them full of holes and piled them in the basin.

3. My only other advice is vary the size of your boulders - a well built waterfall uses as FEW rocks as possible. A whole bunch of smaller rocks will only look like a bunch of small rocks lined up. Not that you can't use what you have - just get yourself some sizable boulders to incorporate. And add some other elements - wood is always a good choice. Fall logs, drift wood, old stumps with roots. All look good and really add to the natural look.

And do look at some Aquascape YouTube videos if you haven't already - everything I know I learned from watching those guys!

Good luck!
Thank you, some great advice I did not think about. Once basin is done, ill start digging the path of water (how deep should this be? I would think a 2-3 inches should be fine right?). I definitely do plan on making some curves and not a straight line.

The point about using fewer rocks is a good one I didnt think about. I just have no idea how ill get bigger 2-3 person sized boulders up this pretty steep hill without using a crane, but im sure I can figure something out.
 
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(how deep should this be? I would think a 2-3 inches should be fine right?)
No. Again you're trying to contain water. It's not a flat surface with liner on it and water flowing down hill. It's really more of a trough that will contain the water as it flows down the hill.

I'd suggest you hit up Youtube and start searching "pondless waterfall" maybe even add "natural slope" or "on a slope" - you'll find tons of examples. I'll see if I can find a few and post them here.
 
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Here’s an idea to give you an idea of how water will flow: use your garden hose. literally, see how the water wants to come down the hill. It will take a bit for it to just flow and not soak in, so maybe try it after a good rain. Just run the hose up the side, to where you want it to start, then turn the water on full force, and see how it flows down. Try adjusting the path by putting rocks in its way, till you have a path you like, and mark it with spray paint. Then dig it out. Think about how you want the water returned to the top. You’ll want a trench to hide the pipe for that too, unless you plan for it to be hidden in the stream bed.
 
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Thank you, some great advice I did not think about. Once basin is done, ill start digging the path of water (how deep should this be? I would think a 2-3 inches should be fine right?). I definitely do plan on making some curves and not a straight line.

The point about using fewer rocks is a good one I didnt think about. I just have no idea how ill get bigger 2-3 person sized boulders up this pretty steep hill without using a crane, but im sure I can figure something out.
Its almost crucial to have large bolders at the drops on the stream they call these character stones .

I strongly recommend watching the videos I included where you asking how large the basin should be you have not watched the water in motion series if you loose power you'll need to be able to absorb /control all the water that will drain down the hill. now if you plan out the design so you have small pools at each drop or at the end of section of stream you can control the water to stay on the hill there are benefits to this beyond having the need for huge basin. it also keeps your plants moss and bacteria alive if your power goes down for days.
 
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addy1

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Welcome to our forum!

I have a steep slope stream that goes into a pond. Mine makes switch backs and curves. I dug mine down around 10 inches, wish I had dug it deeper. By the time you put in underlayment, liner, rocks, plants grow, the water seems to decide to find a way to get out of the stream bed. So long and short I would make it deeper. This is my stream bed sort of lol

I have little depressions in the stream mini ponds, small ponds at the switchbacks.

I would think a 2-3 inches should be fine right?)
Inkednvr travel_house view_main_20210316071619_@3_LI.jpg
 
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No. Again you're trying to contain water. It's not a flat surface with liner on it and water flowing down hill. It's really more of a trough that will contain the water as it flows down the hill.
Agreed. I would suggest digging what you think is sufficient... then dig some more. When I built my pond last year, I made the mistake of not making my waterfall deep enough and I'm still chasing down leaks.
 
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Thank you guys for the suggestions. I am doing this by hand as there are access issues to using heavy machinery back here. Now I'm really re-thinking the plan. The basin is close to dug out, and by looking at moving water calculations I believe it will be enough, not double, but almost double the moving water amount. I did'nt plan on digging out the path for the water, but you guys are correct, I need to dig it out and its going to be tough. I may need to hire some helpers or bribe some buddies to help with shovels.
 
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Thank you guys for the suggestions. I am doing this by hand as there are access issues to using heavy machinery back Herr.
I did'nt plan on digging out the path for the water,
If you get creative you can't build a very nice natural looking stream with waterfalls and character stones at the falls and switch backs. You can use large flat rocks and lean then almost standing straight up now it looks like a large flat rock on edge but if you place two more slightly smaller rocks over the edge where you can see its flat now it looks like a large boulder. Or place a tree stump or log in front of the edge. Or build up rocks on the side hiding the edge and stuff some moss. Rock on a roll can just be used though I have not done so I did see one video get creative with the stuff. Another video had some making his own boulders out of concrete and die. Just remember all the time you spend on this is nothing but a blink in time compared to the hours days weeks and years you'll be looking at it latter. Is it worth hiring a company to come in and place boulders by craine or a utv folk truck . Expensive but I'll say this the Mrs and I have no desire to go on vacation to someone else's back yard we have a staycation in our own back yard now .
 
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So I did some rearranging of existing rocks and yes its much improved:


I also did some test digging to see how hard it will be for me to dig down a path for water... dosent seem too difficult, I can probably manage on my own. Looks like im going forward with the project. Thanks
 
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never stop viewing asking and planning I like the twist much much better as I can see you do as well. But there is still more to consider. Such as looking up the hill looking straight on to the falls as it comes straight at you is cool you can see the sheet flow straight on but it's equally cool to see the drops /falls from the side or have a wide falls at one level get split into two smaller channels divided by rocks or maybe even one goes over or through a log " who would ever do that " There are so many tricks to how to make it look so real and an amazing part of your homecation. The twists and turns help to slow the water down as well and that's huge in keeping the splash in the pond and not spraying outside the lined area as that can add up in the water bill very very very quickly.

One last thing which you are doing is to have the rock on hand so you can build your shelves your drops as the rock dictates . never build the shelves to the size you want so much as what you have to make the plan work. The rocks the wood you aquire will design your falls and stream as you go if you take the time to listen.

one more question for you how high and how far is the top of the falls from your pit/ pond?
 
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here's another thought, something you can work on after you have the basic path done; it looks more natrual to have 'other' rocks dotting the landscape, and they should be half buried, not 'stuck on top' of the ground, to make it look more realistic. Your rocks lining the actual stream should be the same; half buried so as to appear as if Nature put them there.
 
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Agree with the half buried and other rocks wandering out into the yard away from the stream path. Some big some small. It is looking a lot better than straight down.
 

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