Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

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Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby UrbanDuckMan » Tue Mar 26, 2013 9:43 am

I have approx. 10 acres of ground that has been pasture land for many years. It is " fairly level " and sits just above my 20 acre Watershed Lake. It also has a small pond on it that sits on one edge at about the halfway point. It has a LOT of drainage along the entire length that comes in off of a pasture next to it. It has had some terracing done but that is well weathered down.

I'm looking to turn the whole area into a " wetland " ... one on which I can CONTROL the water levels ... I see primarily pumping water out of the lager watershed up onto the marsh area. I can see that maybe there is a real possiblilty of enlarging the smaller pond and incorporating it into the overal scheme of things.

IF I can CONTROL the water level when I want I can plant the marsh or smaller ponds and flood them when I want. I don't expect to need much more than enough water to bring the water level up to about halfway between my knee and upper ankles. It will require some leveling out so the water won't gather along one side or the other.

It already has a good stand of Bermuda Grass on it and I like what I see when Bermuda Grass is FLOODED under shallow water. The ground when scraped off tends to ERODE easily and quickly . The last thing I need is to lose the cover in such a manner so as to allow erosion conditions to get a foot hold. I can foresee drilling in some millets or other food sources into the Bermuda Grass and also adding Smart Weed that without the additional moisture don't necessarily exist or grow well.

There are a lot of ducks as this all sits in a very " Duckie Area " ... it sits in between the confluences of the Washita and Canadian Rivers that is heavily cattle and horse ranched with very little row croping to contend with.

Does anyone know or have used a professional on a project as described. I have not been to D.U. as I ani't get'n no younger and I sure as hell don't want to go down a path of one of them D.U. , State and Federal " Partnerships ". But then again I'm Retired and on a FIXED INCOME during a time that is fraught with a high level of uncertainity!

Thanks of any and all input!

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Re: Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby shoveler_shooter » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:04 am

I'd probably be able to give advice on that in a year or 2...majoring in wildlife management and transferring to OSU next January.

I bet Jeff_osu knows a thing or two.
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Re: Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby LTMFH » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:29 am

A marsh is all about water control. A marsh is Wet soil plants ducks like that grow on their own. A flooded field is just that a flooded field. If you dont have EASY water control you will be more happy with a Field you plant then flood later.
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Re: Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby LTMFH » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:35 am

Smartweed is a good example. If you want smartweed it is germinating right now. Your area would need to have been flooded and now have the water gone. The water level the rest of the year can NOT over top the smartweed plants. Wont help to plant it in a month. It will be too late for germination. With a later draw down you could have Barnyard grass, SprangleTop. Even later you could have Sedges. Draw down too early and you could have all Cockleburrs. You can put water back on in the summer to flood out cockleburrs. Its all about Water and water control.
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Re: Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby UrbanDuckMan » Tue Mar 26, 2013 1:54 pm

I use the term " Marsh " way too generally to describe what I have in mind. The " Moist Soil " description is more to what I had in mind. I have hunted on the more or less " true Marsh " and from what I have seen the Moist Soil type of area that supports different types of " native " food sources does as good if not better job of attract'n and hold'n Water Fowl.

Still... I would prefer to have at some point a covering of water oh say about 18 inches in depth so that the over flights can SEE these shallow water spots. Once they find it then it should be a bit of " Automatic Pilot " ... they is a bit like a hive of bees... those that come off of a spot like that and join in on a roost serve to " pass on " the " information " and word spreads like wildfire.

Since there is some " slope " to this piece of ground ( the rest of the place is much too much of undulating hills and drains to hold water ) lends itself to being " constructed " or changed to hold water evenly there will need to be some amount of dirt movment and construction of leevess or berms. I have got the water and can PUMP IT when needed ... I just need to get it prepared to hold that water when pumped in or runs off naturally!

Is there anyone out there that knows of someone who can produce a " blueprint " that would include what has to be moved or removed within the area I have to use? I want a blueprint FIRST ... then decide on how and who will " build " it. I don't think it's going to take all that much ... unless I decide to give the small pond a REAL MAKEOVER! I have access to some equipment though it's on the light side. Not very mechanically inclined and for sure don't know how to other than use the EYEBALL METHOD of setting grades and heigths of berms!

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Re: Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby Oklahoma Greenhead » Tue Mar 26, 2013 7:32 pm

The first thing you need to do is have the soil tested to see if it can even retain water. If its too sandy or silty you will lose all of your water to the ground.


Just a thought.
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Re: Suggestions On Turning Pasture Into Marsh?

Postby jeff_osu » Tue Mar 26, 2013 10:11 pm

^Do that. You can do this yourself, it's a very simple test. Get a handful of soil and roll it between your hands like play dough. It needs to be wet and have the consistency of play dough. Roll it between your hands and make a "snake". If it breaks off, it's sand. If it makes a big snake, it's clay. The more it smears on your palms, the more clay you have as well.

I have worked on some EPA wetland projects, so I can possibly help. I don't mean this in a condescending way, but "marsh" is a meaningless word, the same as swamp, slough, etc. The hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classification system is the preferred way to classify wetlands, because it actually gives an impression of what's going on in the wetland. It sounds like you have a slope wetland or a "wet meadow". I can tell you more about your options with more information:

1. Does the wetland occur on an incline, i.e. is there water seeping out of the side of a hill or sloping pasture? You've described this as occurring in an upland habitat, does it occur in a small basin or on the side of a hill?

2. If you PM me the coordinates in google maps I can tell you quite a bit more.

3. Which HGM classification would you give the wetland?

In OK, a lot of wetlands have been modified to hold more water or less water, which is a shame. A pond is not the same as a wetland, and ducks will prefer a wetland over a pond. I visited a pond down by the Red River where the owner had created a "duck wetland" (it was actually an impoundment, aka pond). He had the necessary modifications to control the water, and he planted some sort of exotic vegetation (milo, I believe). 200 meters away, there was a sand mining operation uphill which inevitably filled in his pond on a regular basis. He griped about the beavers "ruining" his pond (and he shot them), when he in fact ruined a perfectly good wetland that would have supported waterfowl. The absolute best small wetlands (<20-30 acres) are created by beavers because ALL of the water is ~2 feet deep which is perfect for dabbling ducks. They create tiered pools that are perfect for smartweed and duckweed (lemna). That landowner was throwing money and effort away, if he had just let it be it would have been perfect.

That's my word of warning/advice for this project. They seem great beforehand, but trying to create a wetland where it's not supposed to be usually doesn't work out. It won't work without a regular source of water and/or a high water table. Also, there are legal ramifications to modifying a wetland that is in the National Wetland Inventory. The Swampbuster program looks at aerial photography to see if people are illegally modifying/destroying wetlands without a proper permit (404 permit from the Army Corps of Engineers). Admittedly, that permit is fairly easy to get in OK.
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