Building a Homeowner’s Dream Pond in New Jersey

By Geoerge Mihalchick

Published on January 29, 2024

Homeowner's dream pond
The Mullica Hill, New Jersey pond was positioned so the homeowner could view it from his office.

In early spring of 2023, we were called about a potential project in Mullica Hill, New Jersey. It was more than 90 minutes away, but after Susan’s discussion with the owner and a higher consultation fee, she knew this was a great opportunity. After meeting with the homeowner for close to 2 hours, he knew exactly where he wanted his dream pond and how it was going to be positioned so he could see it from his office window. The homeowner would clear about 30 large trees that were damaged from a recent tornado, but it was up to me to do the rest.  He said, “I don’t ask you how to do my books (he’s an accountant), and I would never ask you how to design and build my pond.” So, with this information, I had an open area of 100 feet x40 feet to do what I wanted with, as long as the pond was 20 feet x30 feet.

Filtering a large pond surrounded by trees with minimal maintenance

meandering stream, pond and bog
The feature includes a 70-foot meandering stream.

You must admit, when you have an opportunity to let the juices flow with no restrictions, full-blown creativity is unleashed. I knew I wanted to include an intake bay to pull in all the leaves and debris from hundreds of trees on his property; add a wetland filtration (Bog) to filter the water naturally; install underwater jets to move the pond water towards the intake area; install multiple waterfalls in a 70-foot meandering stream with a 7-foot elevation change; and have lighting in and around the pond.

After meeting with the owner to show him the layout and discuss the details, he loved everything except the price. Nevertheless, he agreed to move forward and was eager to get started. This is when all the logistics of product deliveries, equipment, and materials, needed to come together. Most importantly, I needed a place to house our team during this three-week project, to eliminate the 1 ½ hour drive back and forth each day.

I love selecting the rock we will be using on larger projects and tagged a few designated boulders for certain areas on the project. For me, hand tagging rock is a great time.

Concern for the sandy soil that might not compact

Finally in September work began. We painted out the large 20-foot x 30-foot free-form pond, and 70-foot meandering stream. The stream has many bends and elevation changes and includes a 12-foot x 27-foot wetland filter (bog). Unlike traditional bogs that are at the top of a waterfall and are the starting point of the water flow, this was in the middle of the stream and appears to be a 10-foot-deep stream. A few more waterfalls were positioned behind the bog to the starting point with a 38-inch spillway to complete the top of the stream.

We started digging the pond, placing the sandy soil in the upper area to raise the elevation for the stream. I knew we could possibly run into major issues if the sandy soil wouldn’t compact and allow us to create shelves in the pond. Even though we had plans in place to address this, we were able to compact the soil perfectly with no issues other than tree roots ( from the trees that were removed). The pond and intake area were dug and lined in two days and rocking began. It took another four days to sling rocks and several 1-ton gravel sacks of assorted river rock to finish rocking the pond before the detail work of the stream could begin.

Fun with details and final reveal of homeowner’s dream pond

pond liner for stream
The 70-foot meandering stream begins to take shape.

We knew we needed several waterfalls and had 4-feet of elevation to do it with, along with a large bog. We dug in the bog area realizing that we needed 10-inches of water flowing on top of it to make it appear as if this was a deep flowing stream and not a filtering system. By adding several large boulders and beautiful stumps, we created a perfect, realistic deep-flowing stream.

After moving and sculpting tons of sandy soil, we created enough of a mound to carve several more waterfalls with switch backs and incorporated an area for the 38-inch spillway to become the starting point for the water to flow from. When using a spillway, we always want to hide it by angling it away from the main viewing area. We also use boulders and driftwood to camouflage it as well. Finally, the stream was completed. Next, we completed the edging work to hide the liner from view and to make certain that the liner was tucked above all water lines. We love to bring soil right against the liner, but sometimes break it up with assorted river rock and different sized boulders to keep as natural as possible. To maintain a natural look, we use “Outcroppings” of larger boulders to make the water area appear as if it was created there and boulders were pushed away by the water.

We make it a habit to have the owner plug in the pump(s) when revealing the pond. I love watching their reaction. In this case, there was so much to look at, they teared up with emotion. With several rain delays, we were on their property for more than four weeks. During this time, you definitely develop relationships that will truly last a lifetime.

Looking good at night

In every project, we always include a lighting package so our customers can appreciate and enjoy the pond after the sun goes down. Lighting a stream is tricky, as spotlights don’t do it justice. In this project we use accent (path) lighting and down lighting whenever possible. Waterfalls are fun to light because they can sometimes light up a part of the background, creating a shimmering effect which is very cool. When lighting a pond, we always aim the lights away from the main viewing area and try to illuminate unique rock work and even caves where fish might be hanging out.

About Ponds by George…We create what nature forgot

I have been creating water features since 1988. My passion started when my parents took us to Bushkill Falls located in northeast Pennsylvania as a kid. I was hooked! It’s my favorite place to go and I still take my team there to unwind and learn how nature creates her own art. That’s how our tagline “We create what nature forgot,” came to be. We have a retail store in Southampton, Pennsylvania, run by my fiancé Susan. This is where we stock everything you need to build your own pond and you can see amazing displays to get some ideas.

My love for the outdoors and passion for nature led to us to purchase a house in the Pocono Mountains. We enjoy being close to nature and to share her beauty with our family and friends whenever we need a jump start. Being involved in Boy Scouts my entire life, I have been able to experience some of nature’s best work up and down the east coast as well as share some of my passions with others.

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contractors-corner

Designer: George Mihalchick

Installer: Ponds By George

Contact Info: Ponds By George 

Project Location: Mullica Hill, New Jersey

Size: 20-foot x 30-foot pond, 70-foot meandering stream with bog 

Components: 3,000 square-feet of liner, 20,000 gph (3) pumps, 28 Eco-Blox, 57 tons assorted fieldstone and river rock, 300 feet, of 3-inch and 2-inch tubing

Time to Complete: 15 Days

Crew: 5 Team Members 

Buyer’s Cost: $126,000

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