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Aquascape's Signature Pond
Distributors, contractors, and retailers from across North America participated in the construction of Aquascape’s 250’x90’ signature water feature under the direction of Ed Beaulieu, Chief Sustainability Officer for Aquascape. Initial excavation began several weeks before more than 600 eager participants representing over 250 companies arrived for the “World’s Most Extreme Pond Build” from July 12-16, 2008. The Extreme Pond Build provided advanced hands-on training for hundreds of Aquascape customers.
Re-creating the Illinois Watershed
Since the interior design of Aqualand, Aquascape’s headquarters in St. Charles, Illinois, incorporated bringing the Illinois prairie inside the building, Beaulieu wanted to take that philosophy one step further by recreating the Illinois watershed in the extreme pond’s design. The north end of the pond mimics the craggy bluff topography of Jo Daviess County, where the Galena, Illinois home of Ulysses S. Grant resides. The ancient glaciers didn’t quite reach the northwest corner of Illinois and the area is now a popular vacation spot with magnificent scenery bordering the Mississippi River. Limestone and sandstone mixture, along with some rocks from Galena were procured for this area of the pond.
Nestled in the midst of this area’s 10-foot berm, staggered with limestone to represent Northern Illinois, is a waterfall grotto. Beaulieu’s goal with the grotto was to incorporate Karst topography, which is a landscape created by groundwater dissolving sedimentary rock. Land forms such as tunnels and caves are typical in this type of topography. Water seeps into and through these land forms, and the Extreme Pond’s grotto is no exception. The team working on the grotto made sure that water would drip into the cavernous hollow, creating as natural an effect as possible.
A small path through a limestone ravine leads to the interior of the grotto where onlookers can enjoy a behind-the-falls view. Dangling roots and accent lighting enhance the cavernous experience. The grotto began as a large cement block that was set into place before the crowds arrived to help with the World’s Most Extreme Pond Build. The interior was faced with a mixture of sandstone and limestone, broken into small pieces and placed strategically, much like a mosaic. Moss, roots, and dripping water piped in from the stream above provide an authentic ambience.
Moving toward the center section, the pond reflects the flat marshy terrain of central Illinois’ farmland. Slow moving water and deep pools with lush vegetation were incorporated into this area of the design. It’s here that Beaulieu added the deepest part of the water at 10 feet, allowing a fish tunnel to be installed so koi would have a place to hide from would-be predators.
Toward the southern end of the 250’ long water feature, a variety of aquatic plants were added planted to resemble a painting of Monet’s garden. Over 200 hardy, day-blooming water lilies were planted by numerous contractors led by Steve Stroupe of Davis Creek Marketing Group, Inc.
Adjacent to “Monet’s Garden” is the wetlands area. Two of the water feature’s largest coves are located where the wetlands filters reside. Shallow, warmer water conditions allow for optimum plant growth here. Filtration in the wetlands was designed to mimic nature. In nature, groundwater is filtered through several feet and many layers of soil and sand before reaching the aquifers. Aquascape’s signature pond consists of 3 to 5 feet of gravel. The gravel bed provides an ideal home for bare root aquatic plants that absorb nutrients, forcing the plants to grow rapidly. The root zone is biologically active and is responsible for breakdown of organic compounds. Since excess nutrients contribute to algae growth, the plants in the wetlands area of the pond help to control algae and keep water clarity optimal.
The wetlands area is approximately 85’ x 10’ and is divided into two bog areas, measuring 35’x10’ and 50’x10’. The underground Centipede™ Module creates a 93% reduction in water velocity. Water moving through natural wetlands has a slow speed, and Beaulieu wanted to ensure that same lazy attitude. The pond contains a vanishing edge near this location. From inside the building, a blur line occurs where the water ends and land begins, creating a stunning view.
At the very southern end of the pond, a cypress swamp was incorporated into the design. Bald cypress trees were planted to mimic Southern Illinois’ vegetation and large logs were placed for visual interest. The logs were previously excavated from the property and saved to be used specifically for Aquascape’s extreme pond. Nearby, the pump basin holds up to 40,000 gallons of water and houses all of the filters, jets, and pumps for the waterfalls. From here, the water is pumped back to the northern edge of the water feature where the greatest volume of circulation exists from a set of waterfalls.
An Interactive Water Feature
Aquascape’s signature pond is bisected by a large grassy peninsula at the eastern edge, which makes way to flat limestone slabs that act as stepping stones toward the building. Up to 150,000 gallons of water per hour flow over the stepping stones. The water is approximately 3 to 4 inches deep over one of the stones. The rest are located above water for easy stepping. Transitioning from the stepping stones to the building is a series of man-made deck “stepping stones” created from recycled plastic.
Interactive areas were incorporated throughout the water feature and the peninsula is a key area to spend time enjoying the surrounding watery views. The patio adjacent to the grotto’s waterfalls is another favorite viewing area due to the captivating views and availability of lounging areas.
Enjoy a Visit to the AquaGardens
Beautiful water features intertwined with pathways, seating areas, ornamental shrubs, flowers, and more help you visualize a pond, stream, or waterfall in your very own yard. Take a stroll through the AquaGardens, located on the west side of Aquascape’s corporate headquarters, better known as Aqualand.
When you visit the AquaGardens you’ll experience the joyful sight and sound of running water as you view an ecosystem pond, Pondless® Waterfalls, bubbling urns, fountain rocks, and more. Let your imagination wander as you dream about what a similar paradise would look like in your own landscape. Every day can be a vacation when you enjoy the peace and serenity of an Aquascape water feature.
The AquaGardens are open to the public year-round during daylight hours. Located at 901 Aqualand Way in St. Charles, IL – the Water Garden Capital of the World.