How to Dig a Lake

Updated February 21, 2017

The benefits of having a lake on your property are many. Lakes can serve as a recreation venue, water supply, fishing hole, swimming pool and landscaping feature and are a magnet for kids and wildlife. If your property is not of sufficient size to contain a lake, you may consider digging a pond, which differs only in name and size and is created with the basic process. Digging a lake is a difficult process that demands know-how, skill, time and a great deal of effort but one which can be tackled by the intrepid do-it-yourselfer.

Pick the location of your lake. Test the soil to make sure it has the proper make-up to contain water without too much seepage. A high clay content will help in this cause. Make sure your lake area is easily accessible to heavy equipment so you do not have to damage other land features to get near it. The lake location should have a sufficient drainage area so water is in constant natural supply and does not have to be provided from an outside source. Make sure there is no hazardous runoff feeding into your drainage area like cesspools, farmland or chemicals.

Test your soil make-up by digging in the area where you plan to locate your lake. Go down as far as you expect your lake bottom to be and fill the hole with water. Wait a day or two and monitor how much water seeps out. If all or most of the water is gone within a few days, the soil in that location is not suitable for a lake bed. If all or most of the water remains in the hole, you have found a suitable location.

Use hydraulic equipment including bulldozers, hoes and dump trucks to excavate the earth from your lake-building site. Dig along a slope so that equipment is able to move up and down to remove dirt and to access all parts of the lake bed. Dig down to a depth just over 20 feet and use the excavated soil to fill any sink holes, marshy areas or indentations elsewhere on your land. Leave at least one sloped area to use as a ramp for equipment removal when all is completed. If you wish to create a shoreline for your lake, create a gentle slope leading to the lake bottom on one side of the pit instead of just one ramp for equipment removal. The result will be a lake with one shallow side and one deep side similar to many swimming pools.

Fill your lake with water using diesel-powered pumps and a nearby water source. Wells, collected rain water and groundwater are great no-cost options. Water also can be trucked in if there is no other suitable source nearby. Electric-powered water pumps and city water supplies are not practical or financially sound for providing the large amount of water a lake will require. Leave enough space for normal rainfall and runoff to enter the lake without causing overflow.

Plan an escape route for overflow caused by precipitation. A runoff area located downhill from the lake or a channel leading to a suitable deposit area will suffice.


Lakes that cover an area of one acre or more tend to support and breed aquatic life more successfully. If you live in an area that freezes over in the winter, make sure to dig your lake deep enough to provide fish with somewhere to stay when the surface is solid. Hydraulic equipment can be rented at home improvement and construction rental outlets around the country.


Before digging your lake make sure to check local regulations. Permits may be required prior to breaking ground.

Things You'll Need

  • Hydraulic digging equipment
  • Shovels
  • Dump trucks
  • Garden hose
  • Diesel-powered water pumps
  • Water source
  • Diesel fuel
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Robert Morello has an extensive travel, marketing and business background. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts from Columbia University in 2002 and has worked in travel as a guide, corporate senior marketing and product manager and travel consultant/expert. Morello is a professional writer and adjunct professor of travel and tourism.