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natural swimming pool with boulders

Welcome to Natural Swim Ponds!

It used to be the only way to enjoy backyard swimming was to install a high-maintenance, heavily chlorinated pool with an unnatural liner and boring concrete deck. 

Well those days are over …  

Building a natural water feature in your yard – a small koi pond, a pondless disappearing waterfall,  a large swimming pond or even a simple fountain – is an investment in your home and your family’s well-being.  The natural beauty of plants, the soothing sounds of waterfalls just make you want to get outside and reconnect with nature!

The team at Splash has more than 30 years’ experience creating these kinds of beautiful, natural, backyard ponds and pools with natural boulders, beautiful waterfalls and peaceful streams – and we’re excited to help you imagine and create the perfect retreat for your property. 

Imagine jumping off a huge natural boulder into your very own swim pond with crystal-clear water and no harsh chemicals!

Today’s backyards don’t have to be boring spaces. Whether you are new to Natural Swim Ponds (NSP) or you are already familiar with natural filtration, we hope this page will be a helpful resource as you design your backyard oasis.

Click the links below to jump to what you’d like to know, or simply scroll down to learn more about the Splash team, our processes and our designs.

The Splash Team

Over the past 30+ years, Splash Supply Company has grown into the largest water feature design build team in the region.  Our team has built hundreds of water features, from small backyard waterfalls to the huge koi pond at the entrance of the newest UPMC hospital.  Splash’s work has also appeared on national television shows and in major trade magazines.

Our founder, Mark, studied landscape architecture at West Virginia University, but we learned most of what we know about pond design the hard way: intense focus on water features, and playing in the dirt and finding the things that work (and a few things that don’t). Let us share this expertise with you during a visit to our display gardens or at one of our many seminars.

Whether you’re dreaming of an acre-sized lake or just want to enjoy the sounds of a small trickling waterfall, we can’t wait to get started on your personal oasis.

Designing Your Splash Ecosystem Recreation Pond

After you contact us, we’ll schedule an Initial Call to talk about what you are looking to have done and your timeline expectations for the project.  We’ll ask a ton of questions to make sure we understand your ideas, thoughts and questions. 

Our goal is to understand your dreams as we begin the process of combining your vision with our expertise to create the perfect project that fits your budget and backyard. 

On smaller projects (under $65,000),  your designer can typically prepare a detailed work order based on one of the many features in our display garden.  Larger projects many times require custom design.  At the end of this initial call, we’ll know what the next best step is, whether we recommend a visit to our display garden or if you are ready to schedule a more detailed call with your designer to talk about the preliminary plan for a custom design.

The Preliminary Plan

After the initial call, your designer will take the information you talked about and create a preliminary plan. This plan is simply a step-by-step guide for your project based on your initial conversation and our experience working with similar projects. Our goal is to make sure everyone knows what to expect and eliminate any surprises along the way.

When your preliminary plan is ready, we’ll schedule a time to continue the conversation from our initial phone call to make sure we understand your project properly and review the preliminary plan with you.  Your preliminary plan will include the details of the rest of the process including:

  • Project Description
  • Scope
  • Pool Size
  • Pool Depth
  • Open Swimming Area
  • Debris Skimming System
  • Pumps
  • Aeration
  • Plumbing
  • Liners
  • Natural Biological Filters
  • Pond Boulders
  • Aquatic Plants
  • Fish and other Pond Life
  • Total Estimated Cost of Installed Project
  • Project Description
  • Scope
  • Pool Size
  • Pool Depth
  • Open Swimming Area
  • Debris Skimming System
  • Pumps
  • Aeration
  • Plumbing
  • Liners
  • Natural Biological Filters
  • Pond Boulders
  • Aquatic Plants
  • Fish and other Pond Life
  • Total Estimated Cost of Installed Project

Let's design it together ...

As soon as you are ready, your designer will take the preliminary plan and create a detailed work order to begin the design phase of your project.

This work order will include the schedule and costs to begin the design process including onsite visit, site survey, code compliance, storm water management, erosion and sediment control, setbacks, septic reserve, fencing, design charatte and a 3D rendering of your project.

Costs for the design phase of the project typically have a $3,600 flat fee that includes initial site survey, CAD sketch, and your personal  3D Conceptual Rendering.  Our unique custom 3D renderings allow you to fully immerse yourself in the design and see the transformation before the first shovel goes in the ground.

Here are a few projects we have worked on with other clients:

Natural Crystal-Clear Water, Low-Maintenance Filtration

Clear Water, Low Maintenance

Old-fashioned swimming pools require a lot of work and harsh chemicals with the acid washing, chlorine, shock tablets, and pH monitoring. Our two-part Ecosytem Filters work with nature to achieve crystal-clear water without the constant worry, work and chemistry homework. 

Simply relax and enjoy!

So how does it work?

1. The skimmer intake removes physical debris from the pond

Your pond is designed to create constant flow from the waterfall toward the wet well skimming intake.  

Debris (leaves, twigs, pollen, etc. …) that gets into the pond is skimmed off of the surface before it has a chance to settle to the bottom of the pond. In a properly designed pond, this system should capture 80 to 90 percent of all of the debris getting into the pond. In many designs, we also include underwater jets to help push debris toward the skimming intake.

The skimming intake area is designed to blend into the aesthetics of the pond. This area typically looks like a small natural gravel beach with some aquatic plants. The surface area is occasionally raked when debris accumulates.

Your skimming intake removes most of the physical debris so your biofilter doesn’t have to work as hard to remove excess ammonia and nitrites to achieve crystal clear water in your pond.  Our goal is to create an oligotrophic (Ollie  gō  trō′fĭk) ecosystem, where there are very little nutrients remaining in the closed ecosystem.  The second part of the pond filtration system can then handle the little bit of excess nutrients that remain in the system, using natural beneficial bacteria and enzymes.

2. Biofilters starve algae, resulting in clear water

What is a biofilter?  Put simply, a biofilter is a purposely designed space in your pond’s ecosystem that houses beneficial bacteria and enzymes. These bacteria and enzymes remove nutrients and starve the single-cell algae that causes green water.

At Splash, we design our biofilters to be seen and beautifully blend into the natural landscape.  

With our automatic dosing systems, our constructed wetland biofilters require no monthly maintenance. We recommend annual inspection and professional cleaning every one to three years.   Click here to learn more about Splash Ecosytem Filters.

How Much Does a Splash Recreation Swim Pond Cost?

Our small custom natural swim pool with real pond boulders and natural filtration typically starts around $108,000.  The design and layout would be customized for your backyard, but usually start around  17×27 approximately four feet deep.   The size is only limited by your imagination, space, and budget.  You could expect to spend $150,000 to $180,000 or more for a typical recreation swim pond project by the time your project is complete.

The Splash Contemporary Swim Pond at our Powder Mill location is $253,800 installed. (2024 price update)  (Of course, we have smaller ecosystem ponds and waterfalls too starting around $6,000.  You can view those in our Pond and Waterfall Idea & Price Guide.)

Comparing costs

So how does the cost of a swim pond with natural boulders compare to traditional types of chlorine (or ‘saltwater’) swimming pools?

Our research has shown rectangular or oval vinyl liner pools typically cost between $45,000–$75,000.  Many times the cost for a swim pond with huge natural boulders can be double or triple the cost of a traditional vinyl liner chlorinated swimming pool of similar size.

We have seen many concrete or gunite swimming pool projects that cost anywhere from $85,000 to $195,000 or more.  Add in some fake boulder waterfalls and you can expect budgets easily jump to $250,000 or more.  We recently worked on a project where the concrete pool cost over $1 million! 

At Splash, we are experts in designing and placing big natural boulders – not the fake concrete.  To achieve the timeless look of a beautiful, crystal clear, swim pond with natural boulders requires more time and artistry as we precisely excavate to carefully place the each boulder in its spot to create the look of a natural pond. 

How big of a pond do I need?

Our ecosystem ponds are all designed with the same philosophy, no matter the size: Crystal-clear water, naturally healthy pond life, and not a lot of work to keep it looking great.

No matter what size you choose, all of swim ponds are built to be enjoyed with large boulders for stability, shallow entry for safety and aquatic plantings for a natural look and too remove excess nutrients. A larger body of water will create a more stable environment, so we recommend going as big as your space and budget allows.

We build a lot of different sized ponds – from large swim ponds to smaller decorative features.

When you visit the Splash garden and retail store, the first pond you will see is our Lilypad Ecosystem Pond. This is our small pond designed for goldfish, and it starts around $6,000 installed. Wandering around in our garden, you will see dozens of other ponds and waterfalls that range in cost from $3,000 to $50,000. If you find that one of these smaller features falls into the scope of your dream project, you can find more details in our Idea & Price Guide.

Our swim ponds are the next step up from the water features in our display garden. A small swim pond with real boulders and natural filtration typically starts around $75,000.

What’s included in a swim pond?

A small swim pond is a deep natural swimming pool measuring about 25 by 35 feet, and 54 inches deep.

As you can imagine, the designs on these types of projects are only limited by your imagination, space and budget. The larger and deeper the pool, the larger the budget. Also keep in mind there is lot that goes around the pool including patios, walkways, fencing, etc.

It is not unusual for overall budgets to range between $100,000 to $175,000 or more.  Many customers stage their projects into phases, starting with the pond this year and then adding patios, kitchens and firepit areas a little later.

During the initial consultation, we will work with you to visualize how you want to use the space. Your designer will then design the perfect space that fits your budget, space and timing. The 3D design process allows you to experience your new backyard before we even start digging.

Natural Swim Ponds FAQs

If you’ve never really experienced a swim pond before I’m sure you have questions. Here’s more of the common questions we get:

Everyone that I know that has a pool has to shut it down for fall, winter and spring.  Can I really keep enjoying my pond all year long?

Yes, unlike traditional pools, our systems are designed so you can enjoy your waterfall and pond all year long.  It might be a bit too cold to jump in the pond in January, but you’ll be able to enjoy watching and hearing your waterfall 12 months a year.

During the swim season, we’ll use external filters to really get the water clean and clear. In the winter months, we simply switch over the pumps so you can still enjoy your waterfall even when it’s too cold to swim.

Do I need a permit to install a swim pond? 

Yes.  Just like traditional swimming pools, for the safety and security of your family and friends, our swim ponds are designed to meet or exceed local swimming pool codes and guideline. 

Can I have fish in my swim pond?  Do I have to have fish? 

It’s really up to you. Many of our customers enjoy jumping in the pond on a hot summer day and having the beautiful koi swimming all around them. Others might be a little apprehensive at first if they’ve never done it.

You can add fish now, later or never. We’ll design your system to allow you to keep your options open.

Our Ecosystem Swim Ponds are designed to be completely natural and would be a fun and happy place to raise a few friendly pond fish if you choose to do so.

Can I have plants in the pond? Do I have to have plants in the pond?

A variety of aquatic plants will look amazing with blooms, colors, and  textures all year long!  The stream and waterfall areas are typically planted with more plants  to allow more open recreation area in the pond itself. 

Your designer will work with you to determine the perfect balance for you. 

Do the pumps make a lot of noise?

What’s really cool about our Ecosystem Ponds is the waterfalls. Not only do they look incredibly natural and have amazing sounds, but they will also mask any sounds like external pumps or HVAC units or even traffic going by. You can really relax and escape in your own piece of paradise.

What about algae?  

Does the Ecosystem Pond have more green water algae than a traditional swimming pool?

No.  A well designed swim pond will have naturally crystal clear water all year long without the use of harsh chemicals, a chemistry degree, or extensive test kits.

What about filamentous stringy fuzzy type algae?

The natural biological plant based filter removes excess nutrients and keep the water crystal clear.  A healthy and natural biofilm forms on the rock and gravel.  We’ll adjust the water treatments to ensure your pond is happy,  healthy, and looking amazing all year long. 

Do I have to add a chlorine or salt water filter to a recreation pond?

Great question!  You can…  But we are not fans of these chemicals …  adding chlorine destroys the naturally balanced ecosystem,  increases your maintenance, and limits your options to naturalize the pond with fish and plants.   A natural biological plant based filter removes excess nutrients and keep the water crystal clear without expensive and harsh chemicals.    We’ll adjust the natural beneficial bacteria water treatments to ensure your pond is looking amazing all year long. 

What’s so good about Beneficial Bacteria?

It is critically important that you are consistently adding a fresh dose of healthy beneficial bacteria to establish and maintain a happy healthy ecosystem.  These beneficial bacteria strains of nitrosomonas and nitrobacter are the backbone of your pond system.  Adding these will keep other potentially harmful bacteria such as cyanobacteria greatly reduced. 

Will my pond attract wildlife?

Water features don’t just make humans happy.

Ponds attract all kinds of wildlife, from the fish that you put in to the frogs and turtles who migrate there. Squirrels, chipmunks, birds and other critters will also enjoy the nice oasis of plants around your pond, as will honeybees and butterflies.

Related: How does a pond ecosystem work?

By creating an environment for these animals, you offset some of the damage humans cause when they spread into natural habitats. The sounds of flowing water block out noises that otherwise disrupt animals’ activity patterns, and your plants and pond add much-needed shelter for creatures that might otherwise have no place to go.

Your pets will enjoy the addition too. Lots of our customers have dogs that love their ponds as much as their humans do.

5 More Reasons to Build a Natural Swim Pond

As if you needed even more reasons for Splash to design your private recreation swim pond in your backyard, here are a few science-based reasons that prove you need a pond in your yard today!

Ready to Jump In?

If you decide a natural swimming pool pond is right for you, let’s talk.

You can reach us by phone at 717-751-2108 or visit our store at 1298 Toronita St. in York, PA. Our online Pondsultation form gives you a quick way to reach out via email.

Splash Supply Company builds and services ponds throughout southcentral Pennsylvania and northern Maryland.

Check out the links below to learn more about adding a swim pond to your life:

Natural Filtration Using Aquascape Snorkel Centipede

Pond Ecosystems: How Skimmers, Biofilters Keep Water Clear

How Much Does a Pond Cost to Build?

What’s Included in a DIY Pond Kit?

DIY Ponds: Where to Start

Natural Swim Pond