How to Select Rocks and Boulders for Pond Project Builds

Published on December 29, 2021

drones rocks ponds
Shown here is one of several groupings of rock for the Arkansas State University football stadium project. They are arranged so that each rock is quickly accessible, because every day a large number of these rocks is tagged and transported to one of the two waterfall sites.

I have learned that for pond construction builds to look great and strive for efficiency, I need to hand-select almost all my rocks for the project. On smaller projects where we may be using only three to five semi loads, these rocks can normally be selected by walking around the stone yard or quarry, identifying the specific rocks we want and tagging them in a way that the vendor can easily identify them. 

Depending on the scale of the project and the variety of the rock you have purchased, your material-staging areas could be quite spread out

However, when rock and boulders are spread over a large supply yard, is scattered over multiple yards, or is still sitting in its original location in a field or woods, overhead images are immeasurably useful in quickly and accurately conveying essential details, like which specific rocks are desired and their location.

boulders pond projects
This grouping of rock is considered “large and blocky” boulders. Other groups are identified as “extreme character,” “large slabs” (7 to 14 feet), “small slabs (2 to 4 feet), etc. The grouping and management of inventory is important on large projects because it will help ensure that proper quantities and varieties of the inventory are being properly distributed throughout the project.

In the case of a large and expansive stone yard, I normally take aerial images of the entire yard or large portions of it. Then, I indicate with bright-colored arrows on the photos where the tagged rocks are located. I also supply images of the specific rocks or groups of rocks that I would like to set aside for my project. Keep in mind that when you are looking for a large number of specific rocks scattered over a large stone yard or area, you must allow time for the vendor to access them, collect, stage and ship them. This does take time, and you will need to plan ahead.

>> Read the feature article on how to use drone technology from David Duensing

At the point in the project when truckloads of rock are being delivered, being efficient demands that you keep track of specific character rocks as well as the various types of rocks you have on site. Once rock delivery trucks are unloaded and out of the staging area, we segregate the rocks into types and character and place them on wooden dunnage (e.g., pallets, 4x4s, etc.) to allow us to easily sling or forklift the rocks when needed. This minimizes wasted time and potential damage. We also orient the face of the rock all in the same direction. This process allows for more efficient imaging and evaluation of the inventory, rather than having to repeatedly circle around each rock before making a selection.

drone rock pond projects
A portion of the stone yard is highlighted with yellow arrows to indicate where I have tagged individual or palletized rocks for a current project.

Depending on the scale of the project and the variety of the rock you have purchased, your material-staging areas could be quite spread out. As an example, on a project for the Arkansas State University football stadium, we needed to use several different rock storage areas that were spread over a couple of acres and a good distance from the actual waterfall locations. So, we segregated the rocks by length and general thickness, and within those groups, we organized them by the degree of their unique weathered character. We also took time to stage the best of the best rocks in the position we intended to install them, such as vertically, paired up with another rock, laid flat, and so forth.

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