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#112215 03/20/08 05:00 PM
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I have a dilemma that hopefully you guys will be able to help me with.

I have seven acres in Southeast Virginia. The land is relatively flat, but does have a gradual slope towards a creek at the back of the property. My house is on the front of the property on the higher elevation.

I would like to build a small pond acre, close to the house. My concern is, that the land where I would like to put the pond is at the same elevation as my house.

Farther back on the property, where the land begins to slope, is a gully that stays wet from rain runoff pretty much all the time.

Now, which location would be better suited for a small pond. Excavate (with a small dam) next to the house where the land is elevated and hope that rain fills it?

Or build farther down in the gully with more of an embankment pond, where its more likely to get run off rain water.

The soil all over the property is clay and holds water well.

Id like to be able to see the pond from the house, but if it will not fill, then its just a hole.

Any thoughts
VA

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VA,

First,welcome to Pond Boss. You will be able to get plenty of help from the friendly folks here.

I'm assuming that by being in "Southeast Virginia" you are south and east of Richmond, but not in the Tidewater area -- since you have clay.

My feeling is that you need to be where you can catch a pretty fair amount of runoff. The areas between Richmond, Tappahannock, and Williamsburg have a normal rainfall of about 40 inches per year. With the hot summer weather in your area, you can expect 1-2 inches of evaporation per week, plus all clay and dams will leak/percolate at some measurable rate. Assuming that your pond will be somewhere between 5-10 feet in depth, you will need several acres of catchment area to keep a 1/4 acre pond reasonably full year around. Without a sizable area of runoff, you probably will be dry from July through September.

I'd certainly recommend the gully.

I'd start with a call to your local Virginia Extension Service office, or the Extension Service at Virginia Tech.

Good luck -- and keep asking questions.

Ken


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catmandoo #112267 03/20/08 09:12 PM
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Welcome to the forum, VA.

It occurs to me that based on your topography and state regs, one of the potential sites might be (effectively) off limits. The extension service or local NRCS office could/should be of help in determining that.


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Thanks for the input guys. This is a great site with impressive knowledge and experience. I've been reading old posts for a couple of months now.

Ken - Actually, I am in the Tidewater area. I was surprised to see clay as well. About 2' of topsoil, and then hard red clay underneath. That changes the farther back you go on the property. The topsoil is allot mushier in the gully, and I suspect the clay is much farther down, if it's there at all. I dug a 5' test hole in the gully, and it filled up in a day and has stayed full through the fall and winter. Is this groundwater? A Spring?

Theo - I think you may be right. I have a sneaking suspicion that the closer I get to the gully and creek, the more likely it is to be considered a wetland / or impacting a wetland. Tidewater is essentially a giant wetland.

That's why I would like to build near the house. I remember one of the members on here reminding someone that you can't make water run uphill. But, I hope there is a way to make a small pond by the house work. I know I've seen ponds that are slightly elevated, or on relatively flat ground with little watershed. Are people filling these up with their wells?

VA

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I think you don't have a choice here. The are with water in it is your only choice. If you build it where it won't fill up and/or get water, then you just have an eyesore.

The problem here is getting over the fact that the pond is further away from the house then you want it. A few things to consider is how many bugs the pond will bring in. Having it close to the house might make your home less fun to be around if the mosquitos take over. Other bugs like wasps, bees and flies can also be worse around the pond. Snakes like ponds too, so if you have little ones, keeping the pond away from the house might be a good idea. Ponds also smell bad from time to time. The mud gets a funky smell to it, so that might be an issue.

Advantages to having it further from the house are that it will get more water and stay full longer. If it doesn't dry out, you can have fish in there. The walk down to a pond is actually a very pleasant thing. You can create a picnic area, or a remote place to relax and enjoy the pond. You will get more wildlife and activity on a remote pond then you will on one next to the house.

Eddie


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3/4 and 4 acre ponds.
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I have found that the presence of a 1 acre pond stocked with fish lowers the bug count in the 5-10 acres surrounding it.


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I have a pond that is very near the front door of my home and can say that the bugs are no better or worse, but, there are no mosquitos that come from the pond. Almost any thing that moves in the pond is dinner for something else. The pond may well bring additional bugs, but it also brings additional birds, rats and snakes so there is a balance of sorts. The plants suffer much worse from bugs than I do.


1/4 & 3/4 acre ponds. A thousand miles from no where and there is no place I want to be...
Dwight Yoakam
Rad #112647 03/24/08 10:55 AM
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In my experience if you can have Mother Nature fill the pond then it is the best. Like has been said, better to have a nice full pond away from the house (if possible) than an empty hole in front of the house. Just my 2 cents.

catmandoo #115225 04/12/08 07:32 AM
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 Originally Posted By: catmandoo


I'd certainly recommend the gully.



I'm now in agreement about the gully. It's the lowest area and therefore the most likely to receive the runoff needed. However, the ground is so soft and saturated down there, from rain runoff as well as groundwater, will a dam hold?

If I place the excavated material for the dam on top of ground that is not hard, dry, and packed, what will be the result?

VA

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 Originally Posted By: virginiaagent
[
If I place the excavated material for the dam on top of ground that is not hard, dry, and packed, what will be the result?

VA

good chance for DISASTER
This might be a good read

Brettski #115438 04/14/08 04:01 PM
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You would most likely need to create a diversion channel around where the gully is and then put your pond in the gully that you excavate to make larger. This should allow it to dry. When the pond is completed, fill in the diversion gully so that the water now goes through the pond/old gully. The main downside to this may be unwanted species migrating in, but that is hard to avoid when you are using streams/gullies as a water source. You also will need to ensure that you have a substantial spillway pipe and emergency spillway for those major rain events.


Water dries, rocks crumble, and trees die. The only thing that is eternal is the reputation we leave behind.
- Ancient Viking Proverb

ezylman #123285 06/27/08 06:00 PM
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The pond site has dried up nicely this summer enabling me to get to work clearing the trees and brush. I've cleared about two thirds of the area. It takes 10 minutes to take down a few trees with my backhoe, and a week to burn them.

Last night I figured that with the extreme dry weather we've been having here in Virginia it would be a good experiment to dig down deep with the hoe. I'd dug a few smaller test holes in the fall and winter, and I have been pretty confident given that the area stayed pretty wet all fall, winter, and spring due to run off and a potential underground spring (or groundwater).

I dug down about nine feet in the center of the the site. The first six feet was very high sand content, but after that, it appears to be about 25% blue clay.

I walked out this morning and took a look. There was about three to four feet of water in the hole. I'd consider this a good sign.

I don't think the clay content is high enough for an embankment pond, but for an excavated pond, I think I'm in good shape.

What do you pros think?
VA

(I'm working on setting up some pictures)

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 Originally Posted By: virginiaagent
The pond site has dried up nicely this summer enabling me to get to work clearing the trees and brush. I've cleared about two thirds of the area.

I don't think the clay content is high enough for an embankment pond, but for an excavated pond, I think I'm in good shape.

What do you pros think?
VA



VA,

I'm far from a pro, but I think you are probably in pretty good shape for an excavated pond. I've fished a lot of big and small holes from Richmond, to Chickahominy, to Pongo, to Back Bay, and to the Dismal Swamp.

Old friends in your area have also had very shallow wells that they used for their gardens and lawns -- the water tasted horrible, and was slightly brackish, but it should certainly support fish. The water table in one in-law's in Richmond backyard was just a few feet. There were no basements in that neighborhood.

I don't know if it is still there, but at one time, there was a fairly large commercial pond supplier in the Suffolk area with a lot of ponds.

A drive around Williamsburg, Toano, Tappahannock, Jamestown, etc., sure makes it seem like you shouldn't have to dig too deep to have a successful pond.

We recently drove down Route 17 from Fredericksburg to the Williamsburg area. There seemed to be a lot of farm ponds that looked healthy.

Keep us informed.

Ken


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catmandoo #126661 07/26/08 06:18 PM
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Excavation is well under way. So far I'm at about 10 feet in depth. After going down about five feet, I hit solid blue clay. It's very dense and comes up in huge chunks, almost bigger than my backhoe can lift.

Water is running slowly in from the more porous soils near the top of the excavation. The blue clay in the bottom is holding the water.

The pond site is 10 to 15 feet below the level of the surrounding topography, so I'm still hopeful the ground water will run in (as well as surface runoff) and be held there due to gravity since water tables follow the contour of the land to some extent.

I know there is some debate about this issue on other threads. I'm no expert, so I'm just optimistic.

It's too bad I can't give you guys some blue clay. It seems like those that need it have a tough time finding it. I'm going to have mountains of it by the time I'm done.

VA

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Thanks for the updates VA.

You can insert photos into your post and thereby have the visable (as opposed to links).

Here's a thread as to how to do it.

From the archives, how to post photos


JHAP
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 Originally Posted By: virginiaagent
It's too bad I can't give you guys some blue clay. It seems like those that need it have a tough time finding it. I'm going to have mountains of it by the time I'm done.


I wonder if there is any market for it, in other words would it be possible to sell your excess clay?


JHAP
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JHAP - Thanks for the photo instructions. I was wondering how you guys got the pictures into the posts.

[/quote]
I wonder if there is any market for it, in other words would it be possible to sell your excess clay? [/quote]

I've been wondering the same thing. I know people who have sold sand on their property to be used in construction, but I'm not sure about clay. A friend in VA Beach had a company dig their pond for free in exchange for the sand.

I wish I could find a deal like that for clay.

VA

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When you finally get what you want BLUE CLAY it seems like you are rich, That is what we look for on all ponds.
Good luck selling the extra. Selling the material that comes out of the ponds makes the expense a lot easier to handle.. In my part of the country selling the material only happens once in a while, dont give up.

OTTO

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This is a link to a set of photos documenting the pond excavation, from the site clearing through today. It's pretty much finished. It took about three months, from start to finish, and was a physically tough project.

The next steps will be to complete the spillway stand-pipe, some additional dirt work (by hand) around the dam, and allot of landscaping and planting of grass around the banks to prevent erosion of the soil.

The site is in a naturally low lying ravine a few hundred feet from the house. The ravine has several underground springs, and also catches water runoff from about 15 acres surrounding the property. When it fills (if it fills) it will be approximately 2/10ths of an acre, and about twelve feet deep at the center. The measurements are approx. 145' x 65'. I was shooting for a quarter acre, but the topography just would not allow it without building the dam up quite a bit more. Maybe next year.

It currently has about three feet of water in it, which is a good sign considering the drought that we are in here. It goes up about an inch per day. It started to fill during the digging due to the underground springs. The water is a nice creamy jade color. Once the Fall rains begin, we will see how it fills and holds water.

The actual dirt moving was very time consuming. The digging went relatively fast, but moving the piles of dirt varying distances on the property took a while. As someone said, it's probably the most expensive way on earth to be bored. It was much more dirt than I had anticipated. I made hills out it, ran out of room, made new trails, and made more hills. I estimate, based on the length, width, and depth, that the earth moved was around 1,200 cubic yards.

Right now the pond is home to about a thousand little frogs and tadpoles, but hopefully in the near future I'll put some fish in it. My next research and posts on the forum will be in stocking and management areas.

I have alway liked learning how, and doing things myself. This site and the vast knowledge of the moderators and members made that possible.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/28078572@N04/sets/

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 Originally Posted By: virginiaagent
This is a link to a set of photos documenting the pond excavation, from the site clearing through today. It's pretty much finished. It took about three months, from start to finish, and was a physically tough project.


First off, Congratulations! I am always impressed to see someone shape land into a dream. Great slide show. Wow you have some beautiful woods in your area.


 Originally Posted By: virginiaagent
I have alway liked learning how, and doing things myself. This site and the vast knowledge of the moderators and members made that possible.


Ain't that the truth. This site is an unbelievable resource.


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 Originally Posted By: jeffhasapond

First off, Congratulations! I am always impressed to see someone shape land into a dream. Great slide show. Wow you have some beautiful woods in your area.



Thanks JHAP. But before I leave this thread, I want to ask you guys a couple more questions. I've been trying to figure out what to do to reduce erosion. Since the pond is in a ravine, runoff comes down the hills pretty quick and takes some of the pond banks with it as it enters the pond. There are three main areas that entering water is eroding the sides. Today, tropical storm Hannah came through and deposited two inches of rain, which translated to about 12 inches in the pond (Along with a good bit of sand/silt from the sides).

It's not a problem in the short term, but after a few dozen tropical storms my pond will be half the size and depth that it currently is.

What methods have you seen to berm, or channel runoff to one specific inlet and then protect that inlet from erosion? Has anyone ever tried a pond liner under gravel at the inlet? How about sediment pools?

VA

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I personally believe the most effective silt/trash trap is brush piles. Two or three of them upstream will stack up a lot of junk that you can come in and manually remove. I use cedars but pine should work equally well. Place the tree with the trunk facing downstream.

Unsightly? You bet. Effective? Dang right.

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