Pondless Waterfall & Stream are the Envy of the Desert

Published on June 28, 2023

Pondless waterfall with bridge in Gilbert, Arizona
This pondless waterfall comes to life at dusk with shimmering lights illuminating the flowing stream.

Ah, the soothing sound of a waterfall — there’s nothing quite like it. It’s no wonder that many dream of having their own backyard oasis for relaxing and unwinding.

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As an artist who designs natural water features, I was tasked with creating a magnificent pondless waterfall that would be the envy of this backyard. The client had a clear vision of what they wanted — the peaceful sound of nature captured in their backyard with a 50-foot stream carving through the landscape with numerous waterfall drops.

Pondless Waterfall & Stream is an Oasis in the Desert

As a Certified Aquascape Contractor, I am always looking for unique and challenging projects that allow me to unleash my creativity and create oasis-like spaces that offer solace and tranquility. When my client approached me about building a pondless waterfall on his two-acre property in Gilbert, Arizona, I knew I had found my next opportunity to bring a little paradise to the desert.

stream in desert backyard
With the stream flowing and plants in place we installed a drip system and misters along the water’s edge.

One design approach that can create a beautiful and natural-looking feature is to embrace curves throughout the landscape and incorporate waterfall drops for added visual interest. We wanted a location for the water feature that was both visible and accessible. Ideally, it should be in an area where people can enjoy the water’s sound and the feature’s beauty.

Once we determined the location, we added details to the feature. In the design process, we orchestrated a stunning bridge installed over a gently flowing stream. This magnificent structure is the centerpiece of the water feature and can be a stunning addition to any landscape. The bridge adds a touch of beauty to the surroundings and makes the stream accessible to anyone who wishes to get closer to its natural beauty.

The bridge merges seamlessly with the surrounding environment. The natural wooden planks and handrails complement the existing plant life, making crossing over the stream feel like a walk in the park. The lighting on the bridge illuminates it in the dark, making it a breathtaking sight to behold at night. The waterfall drop is also beautifully lit, bringing the viewers close to its natural beauty.

This bridge is also more than a structure. It symbolizes connection, unity and community. It offers accessibility to the water feature, creating an excellent opportunity for visitors to view the wildlife that calls the stream home.

We decided to start with a blank canvas and carefully selected the perfect boulders and materials to create a 50-foot pondless waterfall, complete with a 5-foot-wide stream, multiple waterfall drops and a bridge centerpiece. I was thrilled to be able to incorporate my client’s vision into the design, selecting plants that would thrive in Arizona’s hot and arid climate while also providing a tranquil and relaxing atmosphere. The sound of the water is now a constant presence in the garden, providing my clients with a sense of calm and serenity whenever they need it.

Let the Rocks Speak

When choosing materials for a feature, natural stones and boulders are great choices to create the look of a natural stream, creating steps and tiers for the water to cascade down and adding to the dynamic design.

Mini excvator placing boulders in pondless waterfall
The mini excavator carefully places a boulder to enhance the natural charm along the stream.

The process of bringing this vision to life involved a variety of materials, including 36 tons of Carmel Express boulders ranging from 1 to 3 feet in size and 12 tons of cobble river rocks. Handpicking natural stone for a water feature can be an enriching experience. It unlocks a whole new level of creativity, allowing you to create unique and original designs that blend seamlessly with their surroundings. Natural stones offer a range of beautiful colors and textures that give an organic look to any outdoor space. In addition, these stones’ different shapes and sizes create a sense of cohesiveness that mimics the random arrangement you’d see in nature.

The process of handpicking natural stone for your water feature requires working closely with your stone supplier to identify rocks that match your expectations. When you take your time and listen to what the stones have to say, you can discover the perfect match for your water feature. You may find that some stones speak more loudly than others, and building around them is more manageable. Others may be perfect for small accents here and there. The more stones you discover, the greater the opportunity to create a unique and stunning water feature that is one of a kind.

Once the best stones have been selected, each boulder is carefully strapped and lifted, fitting perfectly into the design. Placement is everything when it comes to natural stones in a water feature. They must be naturally positioned with a beautiful passage of water that gives them an enchanting, natural look. The beautiful colors, textures and shapes they offer can transform a simple water feature into a stunning, functional, beautiful masterpiece. Working with natural materials can be unpredictable, but we overcame each obstacle with careful planning.  

Perfecting the Details of the Pondless Waterfall

Construction images of pondless waterfall
From top to bottom : As the sun rises on this beautiful spring morning, construction begins on this 50-foot pondless waterfall. During construction, these innovative modules are precisely measured before the liner is installed. Preinstallation of this steel bridge ensures the perfect placement and size of boulders along the stream. With the rocks carefully placed, it’s time to add the finishing touches. The final 10% of a project can make all the difference

One of the most important aspects of any water-garden project is ensuring the details are perfect. Every detail counts, from the plants we select to the angles of the boulders and the placement of the waterfall drops. As we worked on the pondless waterfall, we were careful to pay attention to even the smallest details, using waterfall foam to seal the waterfall drops and achieve the perfect water flow using smart controllers.

Illuninated waterfall with boulders and driftwood
The illuminated waterfall and the rhythmic flow of boulders and driftwood along the stream created a captivating display.

We also carefully selected the plants that would surround the waterfall, choosing species that would thrive in the desert climate while also adding to the overall atmosphere of the oasis. And, of course, the lighting was also an important consideration, with subtle LED lights illuminating the waterfalls and adding to the ambiance of the space.

The key components of this project were the reservoir holding 50 large Aquablox and the installation of two SLD 5000-9000 pumps with smart controllers. A remarkable feature of the smart controller is the ability to control the flow using your phone. How cool is that? We strategically positioned two waterfall spillways at the start of the waterfall, which not only created an impressive sight but, when combined with an inviting pool, also effectively disguised the spillways. Our choice of a 45-mil EPDM liner was perfect for this project, allowing for creating seams as necessary due to the stream’s curvature around the bridge.

One essential material that cannot be overlooked is geotextile underlayment. Laying this fabric above and below the liner can provide increased protection for this material, especially from the large boulders. Also, taking time during the plumbing process is a crucial step that cannot be rushed or overlooked. When laying out new systems, it’s vital to always ensure accuracy.

One of the unique pieces we added was the edge work, which we left until the end to allow for any last-minute adjustments. This enabled us to create extra room in the stream for aesthetics and functionality.

The project was not without its challenges, as we had to work around the client’s existing garden, pool and outdoor entertainment areas. From navigating the landscape and building-block walls for flood irrigation to working around the hot Arizona weather and ensuring that the water flow was just right, there were many obstacles to overcome. But with the right approach and a committed team, we were able to find solutions to every challenge that arose, using our expertise in landscaping and design to navigate every obstacle.

Terrain Changes

As nature enthusiasts, we often search for new and innovative ways to incorporate natural elements into our living spaces. In this project, we set out to elevate the spaces to create a serene and captivating environment that seamlessly integrated with the existing landscape.

We incorporated a series of elevation changes that created a dynamic, engaging design, enhancing the natural flow of the water. One of the standout elements of the project is the bridge that elegantly connects the two sides of the stream, serving as a centerpiece for the entire design.

Accent stones and desert plants in pondless waterfall
Accent stones and lush plants artfully arranged along the
edge create a serene and inviting atmosphere.

It wasn’t just about aesthetics; we also considered the practical aspects of the design. By elevating the spaces, we created a more efficient use of the area, providing ample room for the stream and waterfall while maintaining an open and spacious feel. The result is a breathtaking and harmonious space that not only enhances the area’s beauty but also provides a sense of tranquility and relaxation.

This inspired us to use various plants like twisted myrtle, asparagus fern, upright rosemary, Dwarf Japanese Juniper, Portulacaria afra, Leucophyllum Lang and Cordyline ‘Red Sensation.’ These plants added life and color to the project and helped create a more natural and calming environment. Aside from plants, natural materials such as wood, stone and statues can also add a touch of nature to any space.

Building Trust with Clients

As a pond builder, one of the most important aspects of my job is building trust with my clients. When it comes to creating a beautiful and functional water feature, communication and collaboration are key.

Joe Brenner's daugher assisting in pondless waterfall
My daughter is full of joy as she puts the final touches on a pondless waterfall, creating a cherished family memory.

To start off, I make sure to keep an open communication chain with my clients from the very beginning. This includes being available for emails, phone calls and in-person meetings. I answer any questions they may have and provide detailed explanations of the entire process of building a pond or pondless water feature.

It’s also important to show my clients that I appreciate their artistic vision and love what I do. I want them to feel like they can trust that I will bring their dream inspiration for their project to life. This involves actively listening to their wants and needs and incorporating their ideas into the design process.

Another crucial aspect of building trust with clients is ensuring all decision makers are present for the planning and beginning stages of the project. This ensures that all parties are on the same page and are happy and satisfied with their decisions before moving forward with the project.

Throughout the build, I try to keep my clients’ best interests at heart and work toward creating a water feature that fulfills their desires and needs. I take the time to understand what they want to see in the final project and follow through with their inspiration to ensure it is reflected in the final design. Building trust with clients takes time and effort, but providing a successful and enjoyable experience is well worth prioritizing open communication, collaboration and a commitment to the client’s vision.

Stay Inspired

Inspiration can come from the smallest things, whether it’s the sound of the stream or the rhythm of nature. As a creative designer, I take in everything around me and use it to make something beautiful. Our team at Arizona Aquascapes uses these creative elements to create water features that are functional and beautiful. We want to bring the natural world closer to our clients, and by doing so, we bring peace and serenity to their lives.

In the end, our inspiration came from the environment and the client’s desire to have a unique and beautiful outdoor space. With some creativity and inspiration, we delivered an attractive water feature that will bring joy to the client for years to come.

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