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#567779 06/11/24 11:14 AM
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Hi, Pond People. Thanks for having this forum. 30ish years ago, my husband was poking around his newly purchased 2 acres. The house is placed on fill-we've never flooded!-and surrounded by brooks & wetlands on both sides. So my husband dug down a bit, adjacent to a brook, & a pond was born. He hired a steam shovel to enlarge it & there's it's been for 30 years. Tons of critters made their home there; fortunately it's too muddy to appeal to ducks and geese. It's surrounded by river reeds (the ones with tufty heads) which we mow in season on one side so we have a view and access to the pond. We don't use fertilizers or pesticides of any kind & just enjoy walking around the pond. No swimming or boating. We have plenty of rain, and while the water level has lowered and risen a bit over the years, it's always been full or close to it.

Spring here was very wet, yet our pond water level fell so much that there is now a mucky ring of previously submerged vegetation. I texted my neighbors and asked about their wetlands. It turns out 2 beaver colonies had been altering the the wetlandscape for a couple of years. The town had removed the dams & relocated the beavers which resulted in water level changes. Since then, I haven't heard any bullfrogs, seen any turtles plopping in and out, or little grey herons dining. Are we losing our pond? I know they don't last forever. If our pond is dying, is there any not too invasive way to turn it around? Will we be left with a boggy spot in our yard? Is this post too long? (yes)

I'd appreciate any comments or advice. Thank you!

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I have too little information, so I am going to make some assumptions. (Guarantee some will therefore be wrong.)

I don't know how long the beavers have been there. (Perhaps the entire 30 years?) However, beavers are geniuses at stopping moving water. Their work would have generally slowed the flow of water away from the area via the brooks. Their dams then serve to raise the water level for every area immediately upstream of their dams. In a wide, flat marshy area, they might be increasing the water level over hundreds of acres, including your property.

Does the water in your pond get muddy looking for several days after there are heavy rains in the area? If so, then particles (silt) are washing into your pond during these events. Your pond plants are highly efficient at trapping this material. Over a long enough period, ponds like yours tend to become filled with that incoming silt.

The other material in your pond is the organic material (muck) created when your plants die and sink to the bottom, or leaves or other material blow into your pond.

In almost all circumstances, old ponds will fill in with either silt or muck, or most likely a combination of the two!

The usual solution to that problem - is to dig out your pond again and give it many more years of life. However, that is usually not cheap, AND you need a place to put the excavated material. Do you have another spot nearby your pond where you can build some more "high and dry" ground?

I hope that gives you some more ideas to help assess your situation. Good luck revitalizing your pond!

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Your second paragraph is exactly what my neighbors described. Regarding rain, I think it’s actually muddier without rain. After a good soaking, the water looks less muddy & overflows onto adjacent flat land.

Digging another pond isn’t on the table. We’re too old & too cheap. Plus I suspect messing with wetlands is illegal. No one asked or noticed 35 years ago.

What will the dead pond land look like? Swampy? Gardenable?

Thanks a bunch for answering.

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Muddy water could also be mechanical. Any idea what fish species are in the pond?


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Originally Posted by Boondoggle
Muddy water could also be mechanical. Any idea what fish species are in the pond?

I agree with Boondoggle. If the water is muddier when it has NOT rained, then I suspect some living creatures are stirring up your pond bottom.

Originally Posted by BarbaraE
Digging another pond isn’t on the table. We’re too old & too cheap. Plus I suspect messing with wetlands is illegal. No one asked or noticed 35 years ago.

I was referring only to deepening your pond back to its original depth. That would probably be legal. However, you do need somewhere to put that material. Backfilling an existing wetland with that material would almost certainly be illegal.

Either way, if the budget does not include some heavy equipment work, then that point is moot.

However, there is one possible solution if your pond fill is mostly organic muck. That material generally builds up because it creates a layer with no oxygen, and the aerobic bacteria then cannot break down the material.

If might work for you to add some bubble diffusion aerators to your pond. That might slow, or even reverse, the build up of organic muck.

However, if creatures are already stirring up your pond, then the bacteria are already getting a chance to break down the organic material.

Finally, a pond that is slowly losing water depth, will typically become a wetland marsh if dominated by grass and reeds as the plants. It will become a wetland swamp if dominated by trees and woody shrubs.

For example, if it became a marsh before the beaver dams were removed, then if the area water level went down several feet, you might actually get some gardenable area on your property. As it is, without external changes to the water level, the process will probably be very slow from pond to marsh to dry land.

However, the good news is that you can garden in a marsh! If you are computer savvy you can search Pond Boss and read the threads about beneficial plants for ponds. Most of those would also work in marsh, but they must match your geographic region. Stuff from Florida may do poorly in NY.

Some of the pond/marsh plants are very pretty - such as specific iris species that thrive in shallow water or edges, or any of the slow spreading water lilies.

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Turtles make up the majority of the pond population. there are also minnows & frogs.

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pond/swamp gardening! that sounds lovely! thanks for the suggestion.


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