How to Make a Fountain and Pond from Natural Rock

Video Transcript

Video Transcript

RH:  My journey through the Southwest brings me to a city where natural wonders abound.  Sadona, Arizona is located about 100 miles north of Phoenix and 40 miles South of Flagstaf.  It’s surrounded by enormous red rock formations, some of which are said to be vortexes, energy centers that some people believe bring harmony and balance to ones life.  Perhaps that’s what attracted Doreen and Paul Sloven, who retired here a couple of years ago. Doreen and Paul love spending time outdoors and it’s no wonder. They have a spectacular view.  The couple would like to add a waterfall in there front yard, built up from natural stone.  I’m going to help them do just that.  So this is where you want to put it, right here?

DS:  Yes.

RH:  Well, I can see why!  Look at this view! 

DS:  It’s gorgeous isn’t it?

RH:  Yes.  You guys sit out here I bet.

DS:  All the time.

RH:  Stare at that.  You gonna have the fountain and the waterfall in the foreground here.

DS:  Um-humh.

RH:  Who wants to go anywhere else?  I mean this is it.

DS:  This is it! 

RH:  It doesn’t get any better than this.  Building a natural stone waterfall is fairly straight forward.  But it does require a strong back.  Our first step is to define the perimeter of the pond using a stick to trace the outline in the dirt.  Then we’ll plan the contours and height of the stone wall, which will be stacked right in front of the existing wall. Tape works best to experiment with various heights.  You’ve drawn you’re outline in the dirt Doreen.

DS:  Um-humh.

RH:  So, what I’d like to do now is take some chalk.  I’m just going to follow you’re outline here and we can kind of get a better visual idea of how this is going to look.  So, you like it?

DS:  I like it.

PS:  This section here . . .

DS:  What?  Too round?

PS:  Yeah.

RH:  Okay.  Just cover it over and . . . redraw it.  There you go.  It’s important to lock in the design now before digging.  Our backs will appreciate that later on. All right.  Let’s get the wheelbarrow.

DS:  Okay.

RH:  We’ll get our cup of coffee.  Doreen’s going to start digging and when she’s finished we’ll come back.

DS:  That’s the way it’ll be.

RH:  Feeling a little guilty here.

PS:  Yeah, I think we should help.

RH:  You’re doing a good job but, you know, I couldn’t live with myself if let her do the whole thing.

PS:  Okay.  Whoa! Stop.

RH:  How’s the soil, is it hard?

DS:  No.  It’s pretty good.

RH:  We’re digging out the entire area outlined by the chalk for our pond.  We’re going to dig about one and a half to two feet deep.  While Paul finishes the digging I begin compacting the soil with a tamper.  All right guys.  This is a pond liner. It’s very heavy gauge vinyl, puncture resistant. We’re going to line this entire hole and part of the wall up here with this.  Paul, let’s you and I come over here.  Okay.  And kind of put our edge right up here.  Just tape this up like temporarily here.  The liner prevents water from leaking out of the pond and keeps the existing wall from getting wet.  While I tape it to the back wall Doreen and Paul tuck it into the hole. Now, we want the liner to fit like a glove.  A snug fit will make it less visible when the pond is full of water.

PS:  Oops!

RH:  We’ll cut away the excess later on with a pair of scissors.  Now, we’re ready to begin stacking the stone wall. Paul and Doreen have ordered the stones and have laid them out on the front yard.  Now, this rock is called stripped red rock.  It’s the red rock that Sadona is famous for and it makes up all of these mountains you see behind me here.  Now, we didn’t just go out and strip this off an area like that.  We had to go to a stone yard and buy this.  As a matter of fact it’s illegal to go out there and just take it out of the wilderness.  But, we’ve laid all of these rocks out here like we have because we want to get a good look at each one.  We’re going to have to select these individually one by one to build up that wall where the fountain is going to go or the waterfall is going to go.  Picking the rocks is a little bit like piecing together a puzzle. You look for stones with similar width and thickness and edges that will fit well together.  Oh!  This is . . . I thought the digging was going to be the hard work.

DS:  No. I knew this was.

RH:  Okay.  Here’s number one.  That would work.  You did all the digging.  We’ll do all the rock carrying.  Because these rocks are not perfectly flat we sometimes need to use a shim to level them. The shims are just thin pieces of rock that we insert under a stone to raise it up. Before the wall gets too much higher Doreen runs a hose behind the stones to what will eventually be the top of the waterfall. A pump in the bottom of the pond will push the water up the hose and out the top where it will flow down the face of the rock.  Well, we’ve taken a little break here to kind of check our progress.  This is a good time to point out some of the things that we’ve done that may not be obvious. We tried to keep the wall level from left to right but we’ve actually put a slight tilt from back to front and that’s because I want the water to run off the front edge of these rocks onto the next one and eventually into the pond.  One other thing.  Where possible we’ve tried to stagger the joints like right here.  On top of this joint we’ve got a full rock. Now, we haven’t been able to do that every place and I wouldn’t want to do it every place because I don’t want the wall to look to planned.  But in general that makes the wall look better and makes it stronger.  Once we finished the back wall, Doreen and Paul arrange stones around the edge of the pond making sure they overhang slightly to conceal the liner.

DS:  How’s that?

PS:  Good.

RH:  Meanwhile, I hook up the pump and we place it at the deep end of the pond. The pump will be plugged in to an outdoor receptacle. In addition to circulating the water, it will also filter it, especially important since Paul and Doreen plan to someday add fish. Next we cover the bottom with clean round stones that will help conceal the liner, then fill the pond with water and plug in the pump. 

PS:  Whoa!

RH:  Well the pump works fine but this single stream of water shooting out of the wall is not exactly what we’re looking for.  So, I make up a water manifold from plastic pipe that will better distribute the water, allowing it to cascade gently over the face of the rocks.  Well, you know what?  After all that rock hauling I’d say it’s Advil time.

PS:  I really agree with you.  I am so sore.

RH:  Well, you know they say that Sadona is a magical place and I think we’ve created some magic and who knows, maybe you’re own vortex.

DS:  Right outside the front door.

RH: In the course of a day we’ve created a desert oasis that sounds every bit as beautiful and relaxing as it looks.

Learn how to build a fountain and waterfall from dry stacked stone. Includes information on how to work with a pond liner and install a pump.


Product InformationClick here for more information on pond pumps, liners and related equipment.

One of my journeys through the Southwest took me to a city where natural wonders abound. Sedona, Arizona, surrounded by enormous red rock formations, is home to Doreen and Paul Slevin, who retired there a couple of years ago. The Slevins love spending time outdoors and it's no wonder when you see their spectacular view. When the couple heard that I was passing through, they wrote in and asked if he would help them add a waterfall and pond built from the Sedona area's natural stone. It was a pleasure to help with such a beautiful and soothing project.