In over my head, building a huge waterfall. Need pointers.


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It’s been a four year project to reclaim my hillside. Last summer I began installing a pondless waterfall from the top which is about 16’ above the bottom. I had help installing large rocks. The guy who helped said I should use mortar to build up the sheer drops and intermix cobble to cover the liner. He wasn’t able to show me exactly how to do this so now that the weather is getting better I gotta get this sucker done.

I can use an excavator just fine but need pointers on building up 4-5’ sheer drops.

Thanks in advance for any advice.
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Cichlidboy

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I really like this idea I think more steps to set stones on would help with the stacking of your stone on big walls I am also new to this so I just know that's how I would do it but there are many really talented people on hear that have alot of knowledge that will give you great ideas
 
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That’s a hell of a retaining wall system.

4-5’ drops, if you want them to look natural, require 5-6’ tall boulders. BIG BOYS! You could do some stacking of smaller as well, but not too much or starts to look fake.

One way to use smaller rocks would be to cut in more, smaller drops and turn the water a lot. Put boulders well outside the liner, too. Would be weird to have a grassy hill with one big strip of boulders in the middle.
 
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I am stressing about doing a small waterfall between my bog and pond, so I would not dare give any advice! The only suggest I have is YOUTUBE! There are so many really excellent professional pond and waterfall builders out there. Aquascape has done some huge projects -- big waterfalls for public parks and businesses. I would look around on YouTube and watch a bunch of these videos. The more you see, the more you learn!
 
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This is a link to a short video by Greg Wittstock The Pond Guy. This falls isn't as tall as yours, but it popped up in my feed. So pretty!
 
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The guy who helped you was wrong - you cover the liner with big rocks, not small cobbles. Where in nature would you ever see a crashing waterfall with sheer drops where small cobbles were hanging on for dear life?

If you want construction advice, you'll get it here. But I can tell you, there's a number of things that need fixing from the get-go.
 
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Cichlidboy

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The guy who helped you was wrong - you cover the liner with big rocks, not small cobbles. Where in nature would you ever see a crashing waterfall with sheer drops where small cobbles were hanging on for dear life?

If you want construction advice, you'll get it here. But I can tell you, there's a number of things that need fixing from the get-go.
I agree I was going to say start over but could not bring myself to say it but with that said I think it will be a beautiful water fall when plan comes together. Alot of pond foam to lol someone will have black hands for months.
 
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I agree with Lisak. That design is not going to work and the water will splash out of the waterfall.

My feeling is that you need to dig the path of the water through the hill, like it would be in a natural setting, with the water eroding into the cliff. Then build up the sides a lot with rocks.

Water runs through trenches, not across the top of the ground. The level of a stream or waterfall is always below the level of the surrounding ground area. Otherwise it would just be a marsh.
 
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Sorry to go off topic. I’m so curious how the design for that retaining wall came together. It looks like garden wall blocks stacked really high and with tremendous surcharges on them. I know there are lots of block systems that can handle that. Curious to know what system you used.
 

Mmathis

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Hello and welcome! That’s an ambitious project. I personally don’t have any experience, but just have a “feeling” that this isn’t the look you want. In theory, yes, but I can see water going everywhere except where you want it. But mostly, unless you have lots and lots of huge rocks all around it’s not going to look at all natural. Maybe if it was cut deeper into the hillside it could be made to look like a natural spring coming out.
 
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Welcome .
You have a hell of a challange for a first time build. As was stated search you tube there are many good and BAD builds out there . I have put together some I thought were worthy of sharing as to what can be done and some on how to go about it . That's found here.
ww.youtube.com/watch?v=Hc36HtktJD0
On page two I believe the third video has a beautiful build coming down a hill side but it's not as steep as yours. The head pressure that will be required for a good flow of water will get expensive in electric bills.

On to the advice
You have the right idea building shelves at the bottom of each drop but what you are missing is the flattened horse shoe . Water splashes and the higher the drop the further water can travel..

Let's start at the basin if you want it to be that small and not have 1/4 of the water splash outside the Containment. Then you'll need to have the water fall into a depression below grade so the only splash that is not hitting items/rocks is almost straight up . But the liner should still extend in every direction for at least 6 feet if not more depending on how much you contain the splash. Take my word for it you can loose a lot of water due to splash.
From there you then need to build the flatened horse shoe falls / stream toward the middle at its most powerful and rocks stumps etc on the sides to catch the splash. Bigger boulders on these they call character stones usualy one off to each side with one in the center for a dramatic drop or several making the water ping pong down the slope. The higher the drop the more energy and the more potential water loss. Thus again the horse shoe look at that this video its not as steep and these are pros every one of them they have a very flat horse shoe
. The key is to stack up your character boulders or series of boulders up higher that the drop with either the center all the rocks be it to the side or center being higher than the surface that water will fall over . This may mean building out the bottom 3 feet or more from vertical to support the rocks as you go up. I would try to mimic the video and slow and controll the water as much as you can have the rubber off to the sides out 4 feet and up the sides and hide it with boulders wood etc.
I have a build page in my showcase below . It has nothing like what your doing but it has how to hide liners and links to some of the best builders out there.

You are right admitting this may be biting off more than you can chew. It's a tough battle that high and steep. You may even want to think about two pumps and two completely separate waterfalls that look like one. Here's a bunch of videos with some great builds. Page two third video for one

There are other considerations like holding all the water when the power goes out. John j from modern aquascapes has a great video of water in motion its worth watching.
 
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Cichlidboy

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It’s been a four year project to reclaim my hillside. Last summer I began installing a pondless waterfall from the top which is about 16’ above the bottom. I had help installing large rocks. The guy who helped said I should use mortar to build up the sheer drops and intermix cobble to cover the liner. He wasn’t able to show me exactly how to do this so now that the weather is getting better I gotta get this sucker done.

I can use an excavator just fine but need pointers on building up 4-5’ sheer drops.

Thanks in advance for any advice.View attachment 149300
And some very xxx LARGE FLAT STONE in each of the flat areas
 
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Na no big flat rocks unless there at the bottom of a pooling area.
The red in the liner if you pull it up and create a fold you can use it as a damn to help hold the water or you can apply a second piece of rubber and create a bib liner but they always will leach water if not leek much faster then you'd probably like
Bible liner or fold .jpg
Falls 1.jpg
 
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j.w

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@Tjsherrill
Hope we haven't discouraged you too much. But listen to these people who have so much knowledge on this subject and it will go so much better for you in the end. I bet it will turn out so beautiful!
 

Cichlidboy

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Na no big flat rocks unless there at the bottom of a pooling area.
The red in the liner if you pull it up and create a fold you can use it as a damn to help hold the water or you can apply a second piece of rubber and create a bib liner but they always will leach water if not leek much faster then you'd probably likeView attachment 149328View attachment 149329
In pooling are yes I will be more specific next time
 
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The first thing I see is that the liner needs to be shaped more concave to guide the water toward the middle and prevent it from escaping over the sides.

I would do the falls in several steps, possibly with small pools at each level. Right now it looks more like a slip-n-slide.
 
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