Building a lake

Building a lake

Subject:  Private Lake Construction

From: (Don Lee - Sr. Soft. Eng.)
Subject: Re: Private Ski Lake
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 1994 23:11:54 GMT

: Does anyone have any information on how to build a private ski lake (selecting
 the property, minimum lake size, permits, initial costs, yearly maintenance, ge
neral things to be aware of)?

I am a lot owner of a private ski site that has 2 man-made lakes with
12 lots. We did not actually build the lakes but a development company
built the lakes and sold the lots. I put money down on the lot before the
lakes were ever started so I got to see it built from the start.

I also have a friends who started to build their own lake and got
pretty deep into it before they one of the parties backed out that
had the ties to the current owner of the property who was going to
help them finance it. Once that party backed out the deal was off
because of the ties between the owner and the party who backed out.

So based on the above here are my comments.

Our slalom lake is 2000 feet by 180 feet which is more than adequate.
We have plenty of time to set up, and when the lakes or not down
its wide enough when a skier loses control he usually won't end up
on shore. There have been times when a skier loses control and tail
rides the ski to the shore but in the 7 years its ony happened probably
10 times or so and no one was ever hurt when skiing the course. There have
been a couple of times inexperienced skiers have slammed into the shore
while trying to make the turns at the end of the lake and both times I
would blame the driver who did not realize the speed the skier attains
when making the turn at the end of the lake. No one was seriously hurt
(not even a trip to the hospital) but it could have been serious.

When our lakes get down we are probably only 140 feet wide or so and
it does get kind of scary. I wouldn't want ours any narrower. We have
grass shores, if you have rocky shores you might want it 200 feet or

2000 feet long is adequate and not any problems but if I had a choice I
would like to see them about 2300 feet. This would make it a lot easier
on the driver to get the speed set real early. The extra 150 on each
end for the skier really won't make that much difference, but the driver
will really feel the difference. I would guess that 1800 feet would be
about minimum with straight setups (would take a bit to get used to
driving/skiing something this tight). One other site I think is only about
1600 feet long but they have a little curve at one end that allows the
boat to get up to speed up which helps.

Our other lake has a jump and is about 225-250 ft in width. I think this
is about as narrow as you would want to get, in fact I don't know if we
could safely pull someone that was jumping above 180. If they were to lose
it off the top of the ramp they would probably be right on shore when they
landed. But I'm not for sure. We've never had a problem and in fact our
site is one of the favorites for jumpers (We get a lot more jumpers at
our tournaments than I think any of the other sites in our area).

Here in Texas we can get a lot of wind, so wind protection can be
a big issue. The wind normally blows from the SSE and our lakes run
East/West so that the wind does not normally blow down the lake. If the
wind is blowing from the West or East at just 10 MPH the lake is
pretty much unskiable. But it can be blowing 20 MPH out of the
South and the Lake is Skiable (body wind it tough but the lake is not
that bad). There is another site in the area that it doesn't make any
difference what direction it blows, there are so many trees right up
on the lake that I've never seen/heard of it not being EXCELLENT
conditions (this site purely amazes me).

With ours running East/West we will have sun problems where you will
ski through the gates and all of a sudden its like someone flashed
a camera in your eyes and you have no idea where 1 ball is (I guess
thats one way to keep me from looking at the bouy). So that's a
drawback to ours running East/West but we have no choice because of
the wind. We are trying to get some trees to grow (I swear sometimes
I think it would be easier to get trees to grow in concrete than in the
stuff we got).

One problem we have is with our grass shores the water erodes the banks
pretty bad. We originally had about 20 feet between the lakes and now
when the lakes are up we only have about 3 feet in areas. One site
owner I talked to said what he did is put gravel on the banks and this
took care of the problem. Unfortuanately we feel our shores are too
close to the course to be safe. Probably in the next couple of years we
are going to have to drain the lakes down a bunch a get some equipment
to bring the dirt that is at the bottom of the lake back up on the

When looking for a site probably the biggest stopper will be the
permits and etc.  I think the farther you are in the sticks the
easier it is. All you can do is just go to the proper county (hopefully
there is not a city) agencies to see what they require. If you plan to
put houses on the property it suddenly becomes much more difficult
because of road/water/sewer restrictions and etc. They are much MUCH less
restrictive when there are no homes. Whatever you do don't get the
agencies hacked at you because they can make so tough it would be
easier to fly to the moon than to build a lake.

My friend got somebody that has built stock ponds to evaluate how much
it would cost to build one. I think the best thing is to look for
someone who builds these stock tanks for farms. He said he could
get it down between $1.00 to $1.50 a cubic yard of dirt to be moved.
The spot they were looking at already had half the lake there and it
would have been I think around $50,000 (less than 100,000 for sure).
But it just depends on the site you find.

We have a creek that we divert into the lake (when it runs). You
cannot possibly imagine the power of water. Our biggest headache
is trying to keep runoff from doing damage. We have a bridge that
goes over the creek into our property. We have had basically 3 bridges
built, each one more expensive than the other (the last one was about
$8,000 I think, it better be the last). If you have a lot of
runoff beware of the damage water can do.

I would guess that our two lakes cost less than $150,000 to build
and I know the property cost about $170,000 for 40 acres. But this
will be dependent on what site you try. We have homes on our site.

Our dues are 100 a month, which covers all the maintenance
which is 12 lots x 100 x 12 months = $14,400. But this includes the 3
pumps we run which help maintain the lakes which can run from 3,000 to
7,000 a year depending on the rain. Taxes is about 3500 a year. The rest
is for keeping the boats running (we have 2), the tractor running the
mowers running etc. The extra goes to improvements like volleyball
court, pavillion etc.  The boat purchase we handle separately.

I believe trying to make sure that a lake will hold water is pretty
much like black magic.  We had problems
at first and the developer had to come back in and put some stuff
called bentonite to stop it and it appears it has. But we get a lot
of evaporation because of the wind. I know of 5 other sites that has
no problems that were man-made in our area.  I think you can get the
Corps of Enginners
to test your soil to see how well it will hold water, they should
also have maps of what type of soil it is etc. I've seen maps of
our site and its amazing on what all info they have (these maps were there
before our site was even thought of). I do know that our developers built
another site that also had problems and currently I believe the lakes
are dry. So beaware it can happen. The best thing is to find a lake
already there or one you can just extend.

One final note, its real nice to have your own site that you know
you can always go to and not have to worry about other boats and etc.
If you can swing it, it definitely makes skiing more enjoyable.

        Go for it and good luck,