Tell a Story with Water – Tips to Enhancing Water Features

Water is a hot commodity right now in the ranch market. We have seen a spike in demand in the Texas land market since COVID, much of it coming from first-time land buyers. For many, the dream of land ownership starts with visions of the family cooling off in a clear Hill Country stream or river, or jumping off the floating dock at the ranch lake. Though our state has spectacular water diversity, it is a pretty finite resource when you think about how many ranches have live water, a lake, or have the ability to impound water for a large water feature. Water features are tremendous value drivers that can compound your returns for your enjoyment and your financial investment. Here are some tips on enhancing areas of your ranch, whether it be for family entertainment or preparing your place to sell. 

Create space

I have found creating gathering places around the ranch help you be intentional about spending time in those areas all year long. It also makes a ranch feel more extensive when showing a ranch to a prospective buyer; it helps highlight those areas, and buyers can better imagine themselves spending time there. Through those places, you can tell a story of how you have created memories along those banks with your family. Find a nice spot under a shade tree near the water’s edge to place a picnic table for springtime picnics. Or build a simple fire ring on the bank where you can have campfires on a crisp fall evening. You will be surprised at how much more time you spend in these areas throughout the seasons when you create a space. 

Channeling Restraint

Before you embark on this project of clearing brush along a creek or lake, take time to walk the areas you want to remove and be selective. Use survey tape to map out areas or trees you want to leave alone. I have seen many projects where people have clearcut everything along the creek. In my opinion, it takes away scale and depth. It is easy for us to turn into the hairdresser at sports clips when you hand us the skid steer’s rains. Next thing you know, you have taken it too far. Think about areas you can clear for easy access to a swimming hole or view of a waterfall and leave tree motts along other bank sections. You can clean the brush out from underneath them and trim up the branches to still get views of the creek. Doing this helps create scale and makes the stream or lake feel bigger. Leaving mature vegetation also helps prevent erosion. Whenever you clearcut an area around the creek or you have steep grade feeding into the creek or pond, it is essential to follow up with over-seeding grasses that will quickly stabilize the soil. You can lose quite a bit of topsoil in one large rain if this goes unaddressed. Strong, deep-rooted native grasses along the creek and rivers help our waterways capture and filter the water from rain runoff.

Managing unsightly aquatic vegetation

The top question I get this time of year is how do I get rid of the “slimy green stuff” floating on top of the water along the shoreline. You know, the stuff that when you were a kid, you played with and acted like it was the green slime from Ghostbusters. That is filamentous algae, and it is super easy to manage with a copper algicide sprayed on with a hand sprayer. Or it can be raked off with an aquatic weed rake. It is typically a result of the decomposing aquatic plants in the water or plant clippings thrown in the water by your shredder. If you are trying to chemically manage aquatic plants in a dammed-up section of a creek, consult your local Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologist to understand the waterway’s herbicide regulations. For help identifying aquatic vegetation in your pond or stream, check out Texas A&M’s AquaPlant diagnostic tool. Managing these weeds also helps with the presentation to buyers. As a seasoned landowner, you understand that it is just part of the seasons changing, but it raises concern and reservation to a novice buyer because they do not understand it. 

Time for a late Summer deep cleaning

Right now, as we see a prolonged dry spell across much of the state, this an excellent opportunity to get in those areas to clean them up before the fall rains recharge our surface water. These high temperatures and windy days have drastically increased your evaporation rate for ponds or lakes, exposing more shoreline than usual. The drawdown allows you to get in and mechanically remove any dried up, unwanted vegetation. I like this time to kill cattails, you can spray them with an aquatic safe contact herbicide. Once we get a few fall showers of rain to reduce wildfire risk, I like to burn them with a pear burner when they have dried out. You may also have large debris in your creek bed brought in by spring rains. Taking time cleaning that debris can prevent future buildup and reduce the risk of taking out your water gap during the next rise. This debris can also create an “eddy wall” where the current meets the eddy and create swirling currents that can erode the banks more dramatically in a high flow situation.

The development or management “challenges” many of us chose to face are not ones we attack because of need but out of desire. Landownership should be fun. These are all suggestions meant to provoke ideas that improve your enjoyment and investment. At Republic Ranches, we appreciate the opportunity to be a resource and a sounding board to our clients as they improve their places over their investment lifetime.

TPWD Biologist Directory –

Texas A&M AquaPlant Tool –