Creating Waterfalls and Streams


the Pond

are many reasons to add a waterfall. Waterfalls are
beautiful to look at and the moving water adds sparkle
to your pond. Waterfalls sound good, they provide a
way of recycling the water and they also add valuable
oxygen to the water to benefit fish. Waterfalls or moving
water create white noise. White noise helps screen out
unwanted sounds of the world beyond your garden. Creating
a waterfall takes considerably more planning than other
water features such as, fountains. You do not need a
natural hillside for a waterfall or stream. The dirt
you had left over after you dug out your pond can be
used to buildup your waterfall. Do not pile the dirt
in one spot. Blend it in around your pond to naturalize
your landscape. You can also use fiberglass inserts
with spillways. If you have a sloping site, a series
of waterfalls can be connected to several small ponds
making a dramatic ribbon of water.

recycle water to the top of your falls, the bottom pond
(reservoir pond) will have a pump connected to tubing
that will run water to the top of your falls. Always
make the bottom pond larger than the top pond. The volume
of water needed to cause the top pond to overflow will
not lower the water in the bottom pond to a point that
it does not look good when the pump starts.

waterfall or stream must be lined to prevent water loss.
The sides of your falls must be high enough to prevent
water from splashing out. There will be some evaporation
of water and you may need to add or “top off”your
pond weekly. You can use a single piece of liner for
your pond and falls but this could be awkward to work
with. If you use a separate piece of liner for your
falls or stream, you must overlap the upper level liner
over the next level by several inches. The width of
the water course needs to narrow where you plan to have
it go over the falls. Rocks will help hold the liner
in place. Put stones in the narrow area and use flat
rocks on top of them. Your flatrock (spillstone) should
slope slightly toward the lower pond and project over
the foundation stones directing the water out rather
than down. This will make a nice sound as it spills
into the lower pond. Bring your liner up the sides of
the water channel as least 12 inches. Tuck the liner
back into the soil and hide it with rocks. Run water
to test the flow of the falls. After you are pleased
with the results, you can mortar the stones into place
on top of the liner as you would to install edging.

you are using mortar or concrete as a base of your waterfall
or stream, you might be inviting leaks. Michigan’s climate
has an alternating freeze-thaw. If you do use mortar
to finish your construction, either scrub it down with
vinegar water and rinse many times, or run water through
the system for a long time until the water pH in your
reservoir pond tests below 8.5 before you add any fish.
A well-placed liner under the entire structure will
prevent leaks and loss of water. Many pond builders
use waterproof spray poly foam to fill in behind the
rocks to prevent water loss. Poly foam comes in a pressurized
can with a narrow tube. This was used on my falls but
it turned yellow after one season, and did not hold
the rocks into place any longer. I had to redo everything.
Maybe there is new and improved foam that will not do
this. I have not heard of any as of yet.

can be set in level ground. A stream only needs a one-inch
drop in elevation per ten feet to affect a flow from
the top down to the reservoir. When you are digging
out your stream, dig deep enough to allow for the thickness
of all the rocks and up to three inches of water and
3-4 inches above that. Dig your channel wide enough
to accommodate the widest section of your stream. Use
one piece of liner for your entire stream bed making
sure you overlap it by several inches into your reservoir.
I would recommend using a double-sided tape and a special
adhesive to hold your pieces together. You will need
to dry this with very high heat. A hair dryer does not
get hot enough to give a permanent fixing. Use a professional
heat dryer. You will also need a strong enough flow
to create the look you will want. Small pebbles will
create a rippling affect. You can support the edge of
your stream with a concrete form or board. My stream
was built without any support. Every time you stepped
close to the edge it slowly caved in making the stream
smaller and smaller. The best solution to this problem
I’ve seen was to use sand bags on the edge and bring
your liner up and over them and tuck it under. Then
you can place rocks or mulch right up to the stream
without having it cave in.

can set streams in circles around your trees but use
an underlayment of specially treated landscape cloth
that repels tree root invasion. Streams can be made
to connect one pond to another. Keep streams and falls
natural by using different sizes of rocks. Always set
your side rocks in first because these will be your
larger rocks. Rocks rarely sit fully on top of the ground.
Use a pump that will pump the volume of water you want.
A small pump will only send a drizzle of water over
your falls or down your stream.

tips: Rocks that are in your pond, stream and waterfalls
become extremely slippery. Do not climb or walk up your
falls. Rocks can come loose and tumble down if they
are not secured.

Jennings (pond Lady) President,
Mid-Michigan Pond & Water Garden Club
Advanced MSU Master Gardener


How to Choose a Pond Site
Designing a Pond
Edging for a Pond
Spring Cleanup
Summer Cleanup
Water Gardens

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