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#386432 - 09/01/14 12:12 PM New pond in a steep ravine
1849bngc Offline


Registered: 09/01/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Central Illinois
I'm a brand new member with some basic questions. I would like to create a pond on 20 acres I own by damming up a ravine. The ravine has a watershed of a little more than 6 acres so the pond will be smaller than 1/2 acres. I have seen ponsimon the area similar to what mine would look like but I haven't found discussions on this forum regarding some of my concerns. The questions I have are...

1. I would like to dig some test holes but equipment access is impossible since the ravine is narrow with steep sides and heavily wooded, I hate to clear cut the ravine to find out the soil won't hold water. The soil on the property appears to be primarily clay and data from area wells all show clay to a depth of 40'. Opinions on clear cutting a very pretty ravine with only this data or ideas on test digging in an inaccessible location?

2. The ravine deepens quickly so even a 1/2 acre pond will require a 20 foot dam. I have a question on compacting the core and dam. Does the entire dam including the slopes need to be compacted with a or is it standard to use a sheepsfoot on the core and simply track in the slopes.

3. I would like to keep the natural look of the ravine and leave the trees at the top of the ravine. This would require leaving the current slope which is as steep as 1:1. This means that the sides of the pond basin will not be able to be compacted. Is this a deal killer?

Any and all input is very welcome.

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#386433 - 09/01/14 12:26 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
esshup Offline
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Registered: 01/26/09
Posts: 24033
Loc: Grovertown, Indiana
Welcome to the forum.

It all depends on how much of a gambler you are.

Some NRCS offices have a soil coring tool that will allow soil samples to be taken without heavy equipment - check the office that is in your county.

Compacting the dam core and tracking the slopes is O.K. providing you can tie the core into good soil where the dam contacts each side of the ravine.

You should compact the whole pond basin that will be under water, or take your chances on it leaking. With a pond that small, if the ravine is that steep how can you get equipment in there to compact the dam? How will you remove the stumps from the trees that are cut?
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#386452 - 09/01/14 01:33 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
1849bngc Offline


Registered: 09/01/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Central Illinois
The ravine is shallow enough at the start that a ramp can be cut to allow entry. The plan is to basically cut out an 8-10' wide road following the bottom of the ravine from the beginning to where the back slope of the dam will end. From this flat "road" an excavator will remove stumps from the side slopes and excavate the core trench. The slope of the dam as it is lifted will be gradual enough to compact but the slope on the sides of the ravine will be too steep to compact with equipment. All comments are welcome. Does anyone have any experience with a site like this?

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#386454 - 09/01/14 01:57 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
Rainman Offline
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Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 7026
Loc: St Louis, MO area
Welcome, 1849! If you want the natural look in a ravine, determine your water line, remove trees below that line, and expect trees above that, but with a drip line in the water, to mostly die in a few years. This can be a nice view/fish habitat if the trees fall into the water. If you use equipment to knock down trees rather than cut them first, the root balls make excellent, long lasting fish habitat as well.

Ravines are commonly dammed up, but the worst part of steep sides is fishing access, or in an emergency if falling into the water, getting enough footing to get out of the water....

If you have access to one, a sheepsfoot compaction of the entire dam, core and slopes, plus the entire pool area would definitely be the best bet for a good seal! All earthen pond leak to some degree....


Edited by Rainman (09/01/14 02:00 PM)
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#386457 - 09/01/14 03:33 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
1849bngc Offline


Registered: 09/01/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Central Illinois
Rainman,
Some of the sides will be too steep to compact with a sheepsfoot. Am I just asking for trouble or have many successful ponds been built with this limitation?

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#386778 - 09/05/14 07:42 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
Rainman Offline
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Registered: 06/06/07
Posts: 7026
Loc: St Louis, MO area
1849, most ponds are probably built without the added insurance of proper compaction. Many are built under the myth that simply because tracked equipment are heavy, that they compact soils well.

If you have a properly cored and compacted dam, it will likely cut off and trap any water that saturates the sides and would flow underground toward the dam. It can be amazing how large the volume of water can be needed to saturate surrounding side soils!
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#387957 - 09/22/14 01:11 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
dbarkley Offline


Registered: 08/01/14
Posts: 3
Loc: Illinois
Hey 1849 where in Central Illinois are you located? I am also in Central Illinois and looking to do the same except my ravine is rather large. I am hoping to be able to start on my pond sometime next year.

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#501117 - 01/23/19 06:53 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
Magshine Offline


Registered: 01/04/19
Posts: 28
Loc: Illinois
I'm in central Illinois(by Peoria) and I'm in the process of doing this exact same set up. Is all ready removed all my trees in the ravine and now I'm getting ready to start the dam build with in the next month. Have you started yours yet, maybe we both could lend some info that could benefit each other!

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#501118 - 01/23/19 06:53 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
Magshine Offline


Registered: 01/04/19
Posts: 28
Loc: Illinois
I'm in central Illinois(by Peoria) and I'm in the process of doing this exact same set up. Is all ready removed all my trees in the ravine and now I'm getting ready to start the dam build with in the next month. Have you started yours yet, maybe we both could lend some info that could benefit each other!

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#501250 - 01/27/19 09:39 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: 1849bngc]
kswaterfowler Offline


Registered: 04/17/16
Posts: 85
Loc: East Central Kansas
Mine had no sheepsfoot on any of it, and it holds water fine. Ive never seen a pond built using a sheepsfoot actually.

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#501252 - 01/27/19 11:18 PM Re: New pond in a steep ravine [Re: kswaterfowler]
wannapond0001 Offline


Registered: 12/11/18
Posts: 184
Loc: Ohio
Originally Posted By: kswaterfowler
Mine had no sheepsfoot on any of it, and it holds water fine. Ive never seen a pond built using a sheepsfoot actually.

Sufficient clay should not require much compaction. Don't let some of the guys here catch you saying no compaction! It's a no no!

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