When Dave Duensing’s clients wanted their new waterfeature to mimic a natural trout stream, he turned to the mountains to get a feel for the real thing. What he found was unpredictability.

“My main goal is to pinpoint a natural randomness, a geological correctness,” says Duensing, who collaborated with landscape architect Scott Sones. “I want to be consistent in being inconsistent.”

Duensing carefully engineered the Colorado stream to feature varying widths, and focused on the placement of boulders. 

Both designers drew on their shared love of the region’s topography by using native granite provided by Rocky Mountain Environmental Construction. “You have to have lots of rocks on site that you can play around with,” Duensing says. “The design unfolds from there as you work.”

The team used a large selection of rocks to manage the stream’s flow and create a whitewater effect. A number of rocks act as weirs, while others allow water to roll right over them. “Some areas move quickly, and some are slower,” Duensing says. “There is a lot of action.”

To create motion, Duensing worked with the existing grade and excavated drops and falls of varying heights. “This is where Dave really took over with his eye for boulder placement and creation of a very naturalistic stream course,” says Sones, who was responsible for developing the property’s conceptual design elements.

The team used rocks to tune the waterfall as well. “It’s amazing what you can control with the proper placement: volume, pitch, the direction of the sound,” Duensing reflects. “We try to figure out how to bring the sounds of the stream into the patio area of the house, even a specific room. And certain pitches will mute the human voice.”

Duensing also designed the stream to provide the homeowners with optimal views from key points on the property, such as the doorway or driveway. “We brought the water in at a 90-degree angle from the main viewing areas,” he says.

After tackling the challenges of pulling water from a natural well, including water rights and gallons-per-minute restrictions, Duensing made sure to add an element of mystery to the project.

“If you look at Japanese gardens, there is always a mystery you want to create where you can’t see the whole feature from any one angle,” Duensing notes. “Other parts appear and disappear as you move around the property. If you see the whole thing from every location, there is nothing left to reveal.”

To achieve that sense of mystery and surprise, Duensing’s team relied on some closely guarded plumbing tricks to reintroduce the water from underground, and added a startlingly realistic artificial deer just beyond the stream’s origin.

The final effect is nature, enhanced.

Sones says: “The surrounding native landscape is absolutely beautiful, with drifts of aspen groves, dense conifer groupings, lush undergrowth and breathless panoramic views. The waterfeature simply sits within all this, naturally part of the overall scene.”