Visionary Dam Creates a Family Sanctuary

Knute Hallquist watched an amazing transformation blossom on his farm. He saw 40 acres of his Staton, Iowa, farm go from ugly to oasis in just one season.

Where there once was a waterway so nasty and rough Hallquist couldn’t drive a tractor through it, there is now the home of an amazing array of wildlife and fish, waving wild grasses, and screeching great blue herons. It’s also the center of attention for friends and family gatherings.

The 9-acre pond is surrounded by big fields of corn and an alfalfa strip on the sunup side sporting a thick strip of wild plants that bow to the wind on its western edge. The whole nonagricultural area covers some 30 acres, probably 40 acres in all if you count the spillways upstream and the dam below.

“This was really marginal ground,” Hallquist remembers. “The main purpose for making the pond was to increase soil and water quality on these acres. These other wonderful benefits just happened.”

Wildlife abounds in this sanctuary

Bluegills, bass, catfish, crappies, yellow perch, and a few walleyes all call the pond home now. Ducks and geese on migrations come to visit. “All of this little lake is fed by runoff water from some 500 nearby acres,” Hallquist explains. “The water quality is clear, all the way to the bottom some 20 feet down, as long as the silt dams upstream work!”

Construction on the pond began July 2009 with the building of the dam. Hallquist took a dozer and figured out the waterline with GPS gear. He added rock along the pond edges and worked the whole shoreline smooth after its years of erosion. That leveled out the rough spots and paved the way for plantings for wildlife.

“The pond was a third full after the first winter, and it filled up fully the next year. The three silt dams added upstream work to keep the water in the main pond very clean,” he says.

Additional features were added after the main work of creating the dams was complete. “Everyone told me I needed a jettie. So I put in a 20-foot finger of land that juts out into the lake on the west side. It’s great for casting for fish!” he says.

There are old concrete tubes and rock buried along the jettie, along with piles of cedar posts and wire in various spots to give the fish structures to live and hide in.

An old granary was hauled onto the property and now serves as storage for gear. Hallquist also added a deck to the building.  

Family center

The social whirl that spawned after the pond’s creation was Hallquist’s biggest surprise. “We’ve got friends and family coming out here all the time. People come out to fish, play, and just hang out,” he says.

Hallquist grins wide when he talks about his children and grandchildren who come to the pond. “My three daughters, their husbands, and my five grandkids really enjoy coming here. They’re all spread out now between Seattle, Des Moines, and Omaha. So when they come, it’s pretty special,” he says.

“I added a little sand beach to create a swimming area for the little ones. It’s a joy to watch them float around out there with all their colored floating devices,” he says.

A team effort

He says he couldn’t have done all this without the help from his wife, Denise. “She works hard keeping it mowed and maintained,” he says. “We’re a team on this thing” in addition to their 1,300-acre farm operation.

The Hallquists won their county’s soil conservation award for 2015, mostly for their work with terracing throughout the farm and also for construction of the pond and wild area.

A member of the county soil conservation board, Hallquist is also involved in extensive nitrogen testing and precision application practices.

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