Pond Construction | Lake Tahoe Waterfalls, Courtesy of the Water Boss

Published on February 25, 2017

backyard waterfall
The creek and waterfalls run the length of the backyard, connected by paths and bridges.

While on vacation in July 2014, I was given the opportunity to ride shotgun on an appointment with my uncle, mentor and previous employer of 14 years, Dan Yori. Uncle Dan is the owner of High Sierra Gardens in my old hometown of Incline Village, Nevada, on the north shore of beautiful and scenic Lake Tahoe. We looked at a backyard landscape renovation, which included turning a 75-foot dry creek into a beautiful, recirculating water feature. I gave my uncle my thoughts and projected costs and told him that if he won the project, I would return to Lake Tahoe to supervise the build. Two months later, I found myself back working among former co-workers, some whom I have known for more than 30 years. The project went together seamlessly, and it turned out beautiful.

Off to See the Blizzard

Aqua UV
In the winter of 2016, my company, Steele’s Landscapes, was contacted again by High Sierra Gardens for an even larger build. It was to be 110 feet in total length with two large stone bridges meandering around large pine trees and along the beautiful summer deck and landscaping. The initial meeting with the homeowners and the preliminary design phase took place in the early spring, and as it was in a mountainous region, there was still snow on the ground. High Sierra Gardens finalized all the details, and a start date was set for the week of Memorial Day.

Not in Kansas Anymore

Steele’s Landscapes is based in Wichita, Kansas, and since Lake Tahoe is 1,222 miles from the land of Oz, I utilized the local Ewing Irrigation branch in Reno, which insured the complete stock of items needed for the timely completion of the project. They drop-shipped materials directly to the job site the day before the busy holiday. I briefed my crew for the time I would be away from the shop and said goodbye to the family on Sunday afternoon.

>> See More | Video Preview: Pondless Water Feature in Lake Tahoe 

On Memorial Day, the job site was prepped by High Sierra Gardens. They supplied all machinery and manpower to assist in this large build, and I had worked with most of the guys on the previous 2014 build. I also had another worker, the son of the homeowner. He was a very inquisitive young man home from college, where he was studying to become an architect. He quickly became what seemed like a trainee, asking numerous questions about everything from setting the pumps to performing the final detail and maintenance. It felt like I was verifying the procedure to him and myself, as I was feverously working to maintain my schedule. He had previously worked in the nursery for High Sierra, which has a natural creek that flows through it year-round. I was told that this was the inspiration for convincing his parents to create the backyard masterpiece. I enjoyed sharing his enthusiasm for the project, and it allowed me to add more personality to the build.

Handled Like a ‘Boss’

pondless waterfallThe vault reservoir consisted of Aquascape products, and the pumps specified by Tsurumi were perfectly matched, so the installation was relatively simple for the Water Boss. At the end of day one, all the Aquablocks were in, the reservoir was set and the two lines of 3-inch flex PVC were buried, but we were a little behind schedule from where I thought we’d be. I was given the use of a company truck for the ride to work, during which I realized how the sky-blue water and picturesque mountains were a great inspiration for the creek excavation and rock placement.

The only access to the top waterfalls was a skid-loader trail that crossed the creek midway up. We started the steam bed there to the top. When the trail was no longer needed, we unrolled the remaining liner without the need for a seam. The experienced mountain crew I was working with was well versed in boulder and rock work, which allowed us to breeze through to the fourth day of the build. We finished the two main falls, set the large stone bridges, applied the waterfall foam and performed a test run while the customers were out to dinner — so we didn’t ruin the surprise.

No Place Like Tahoe

flagstone patio
A flagstone patio overlooks this feature under giant pine trees.

Friday was reserved for the final edge treatment while the landscape crew continued with sprinklers, sod and planting. My cousin, Mark Yori, the co-owner of Phoenix Drone Service, filmed the completion of the project, and his expertise in cinematography and knowledge of videography helped put together a great YouTube video. Finally, Saturday was spent introducing the homeowners to the new addition to their backyard and visiting other ponds and water features that I had installed 20 years earlier.

In true Tahoe fashion, the evening was spent enjoying the crisp air, eating great food and conversing with family and friends. I had an early-morning flight, and with a click of my heels, I was home within a week of the start of the build — right on schedule. These types of projects remind me of my ability to travel and create beauty anywhere. I’m currently pursuing more opportunities, so don’t let a little distance discourage you from stepping out and creating your art.

Japanese Koi Kodama

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