How to Build a Big Pond

Building a big pond, usually considered less than five acres, is a project that will lead to years of enjoyment and afford you and your family a great place for recreation. Whether you intend to design a clean and clear swim pond or a big bass fishing pond, you must take into consideration the following steps in building a big pond.

A big pond offers scenery and a connection to nature.
  1. Search out a spot on your property where water exists and aquatic vegetation such as cattails, primrose or willows thrive. Any sort of wetland area will work well. Speak to your local natural resource conservation service’s soil survey to find out if your land will hold water enough to support a pond ecosystem.

  2. Determine required permits by contacting your city government. Digging a pond is considered a significant construction project and will require multiple permits. Be sure to check with utility companies for any underground utilities such as gas lines or telephone services. Contact the electric company, natural gas provider and telephone company before you dig.

  3. If necessary, dig a test hole with an auger to look for water but keep in mind this may require a permit. The water level in the test hole will fluctuate depending on the season, however it should be 2 to 3 feet from ground level. Cover the hole with plywood or a barrier to prevent anyone or anything from falling in the hole. If your test hole yields more mud than water, try a different location or build a shallow pond for waterfowl.

  4. Solidify your goals for the type of pond you want to build. If it’s a swim pond, dig it 10 to 15 feet deep. A fishing pond should be excavated to at least 15 feet deep and no more than 20 feet. The banks of the pond should be no steeper than a 3-to-1 ratio (3 feet out for every 1 foot down). For recreational ponds, 2-to-1 slopes are too dangerous.

  5. Research three excavation companies in the pond excavation industry. Find out about their previous jobs and get a feel for what kind of work they do. You want to work with someone who has your vision in mind. Dig the pond based on your specifications.

  6. Plant local flora such as pickerel weed or canna lilies around the pond for erosion barriers and shoreline retention. Native aquatic plants provide privacy, define the pond space, and add habitat and herbaceous food for wildlife.

  7. Install safety signage that informs all visitors on the depth of the pond and locations of safety equipment including life rings and preservers as well as where an emergency telephone is located. Safety equipment can prevent accidental deaths. Review your homeowner’s insurance policy as to whether the liability of owning a pond will affect your current plan.