Aquatic Habitats

The Wetland and the New Pond offer amazing excursions into two of nature's coolest environments.The Wetland is a seasonally saturated area of land in which water influences the soil composition, as well as the types of plant and animal communities that develop there. Similarly, the New Pond is a small body of standing water that contains a variety of aquatic plants and animals.

Both of these environments serve as breeding grounds for migrating birds and resident amphibians, permanent homes for water-loving insects, and an escape from the heat of the sun for reptiles, amphibians,and mammals; both features are cornerstones of plant and wildlife populations here at the Preserve.

History of the Old Pond

The Old Pond was built in 1950 after the Preserve recieved the Founder's Award from the Garden Club of America. The award funds were put towards transforming the low lying area between the Fern and Gentian Trials into a small pond to accomodate Pennsylvania's numerous aquatic plants. By November of 1950, the Campbell Water Wheel Company had finished construction of the aquatic habitat.

During the intervening years the Pond proved to be one of the most popular sites on the Preserve for thousands of yearly visitors. Unfortunatley, the constant wear and tear of tramping feet wore down the surrounding paths, resulting in excess silting and plant damage.

The Preserve embarked upon a major rehabilitation of the Pond in 1966 by draining silt, bordering the rim with boulders, remaking the encircling path, replacing the wood bridge, and purchasing additional plants to reinvigorate the area. The renovations cost $1,000 and were completed by 1969.

These efforts extended the useful life of the Pond well beyond what was originally envisioned; however, slow decline reached crisis level in terms of the Pond's ability to sustain and nurture life in the Spring of 2011. Storm waters and droughts damaged the diverter dam and the sediment basin to the point that it no longer reliably delivered water to the Pond. Furthermore, seasons of fallen leaves and years of sediment rendered the Pond unable to support the vibrant wildlife it once did.

Click image to enlarge
Pond Restoration Plan

A Change of Plans

Understanding the educational and aesthetic importance of the Pond, the Preserve sought out financial support to rebuild the area and return it to its former beauty. With an estimated cost of $250,000, the 2011 Pond Restoration became the largest project in the Preserve's history. The ambitious plan included repairing the dam that fed the Pond and dredging and replanting the existing pond; however, Mother Nature had different plans in store.

Days away from starting work in late August, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee inundated the Pond with 4 feet of raging storm water. The deer fence and creek gates were destroyed, benches and footbridges were swept away, trails were washed out, and tons of sediment were deposited into the Pond.

Despite the destruction, there was a silver lining - work on the Pond had not yet begun. No equipment was lost and no funds had been spent on construction. Given the opportunity, we met with engineers and designers to re-think our strategy. We determined that the present location in the Pidcock Creek floodplain was no longer a stable place for a functional pond.  Development upstream in the watershed all but guaranteed future flooding events would ravage the drainage basin, therefore, a new site was selcted by the Pond Committee and the design began in earnest.

Creation of the New Pond

Because of the nature of aquatic vegetation and the ecosystem processes that occur, ponds require a great deal of sunlight. Since most of the Preserve is forested, the number of sites that meet the requirements for a pond are few.

Fortunately, however, Mother Nature cleared an ideal spot for a new pond in 1983 when a tornado ripped through the part of the property that is now Woods Edge Walk. That storm removed most of the tree cover, and the area has been managed as an open meadow ever since. After looking at all of the options, it became obvious that the Woods Edge Walk location was the ideal site for a new pond.

With input from the Property, Collections, and Education committees, a design was created to maximize both aesthetics and educational opportunities. Hydrogeologists and engineers from Princeton Hydro helped envision a pond to meet the needs of the Preserve, and with archeological approval from the PA Historical Museum Commission, the construction began!

Throughout the Spring, we removed select trees and invasive species, and began erosion prevention measures. In June, wells were drilled to provide a consistent water supply to the top farm pond, the stream between ponds, and the larger more natural lower pond. By July, pond excavation began and native stone was harvested from the site for landscaping.

Through August and September, construction of the stone spring house began, electricity was run to the site, the flagstone terrace was built, stepping stone paths were installed, and the area was filled with trees, shrubs, herbaceous and aquatic plants.

By the fall of 2012, the New Pond was completed! Not only is it a breathtaking picture of aquatic life, but the perfect location for educational programs and outdoor events. The New Pond fits seemlessly into the both the asthetic of Bucks County and the history of the Preserve. The area is full of native plant and animal life, some of which are listed below. We invite you to stop by and check out this beautiful feature when you visit the Preserve, it will not disappoint!

Plant Highlights at the Pond and surrounding area:
American lotus (Nelumbo lutea)
American plum (Prunus americana)
Black chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa)
Button bush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)
Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Hop horn beam (Ostrya virginiana)
Pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata)
Short-toothed mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum)
Spatterdock (Nuphar lutea)
Turtlehead (Chelone glabra)
White water lily (Nymphaea sp.)
Wild bergamot (Monarda fistulosa)

Ecological Importance

The New Pond and the Old Pond are not only treasured features of the Preserve, but essential ecological resources as well. As the Old Pond naturalizes into a succesional wetland, it will act as a giant sponge; slowing the flow of surface water to reduce soil erosion, while naturally filtering and recharging the water supply. Similarly, ponds are amongst the most diverse freshwater habitats and play a key role in maintaining biodiversity. Both environments provide primary habitats for hundreds of species and support the natural cycle of water. The time and money that has been poured into these two features will hopefully mirror the amazing examples of life that will pour out of them, because as we like to say;

Where there is water...there is life!