The story of Waterscapes Unlimited in Benzie County comes to life in the pages of the April 2015 issue of Traverse, Northern Michigan’s Magazine

If there is one universal trait among Northern Michigan residents, it may be a love of water. Most everyone can relate to a feeling of happiness, calm or excitement on or near water. Here, we’re lucky to find it always nearby, and the luckiest need only step out the back door to enjoy a lake or stream. But owning waterfront property isn’t the only way to enjoy the calming view and lyrical sound of water at home.

A long-running Benzie County company specializes in designing, building and maintaining water gardens. The Bright family started Waterscapes Unlimited in 1997 after building their own pond. They found information scarce and supplies available only through mail-order companies, so they decided to create a convenient single source for all things related to water gardens. The business has grown in a beautiful way.

Photos: Todd Zawistowski

On a sunny July day, Peggy Bright strolls through her home’s lush eight acres tucked into a hardwood forest just west of the village of Lake Ann. The grounds are an excellent example of how water transforms a setting. Refreshing cool air and low trickling sounds waft among the winding paths. Peggy tells the stories of how the water features multiplied over time. It started when they converted a high-maintenance swimming pool into a low-maintenance fishpond, now home to a school of Golden Orfes, 
orange streaks darting under a scalloped carpet of lilypads. Years later her son designed a picturesque island gazebo for his wedding. One design led to the next, and now seven ponds and various streams and waterfalls dot the property.

Just as they did on their own property, the Brights are also happy to consult on-site, to design, install and maintain imaginative custom water features. Their hands-on crew uses shovels and wheelbarrows to install everything from a small backyard koi pond to a hillside water garden with cascading waterfalls, underwater lighting and numerous plantings. The shop is a single source for everything related to water features: plants, fish, skimmers, pumps, lighting and beneficial bacteria.

Waterscapes uses no chemicals, relying instead on mechanical and natural water filtration methods. “Koi fish are year-round aerators,” Peggy explains as she reaches down to greet her finned pets, some approaching two feet long. “Spring through fall, aquatic plants do a great job of clearing the water.”

The ponds and streams, in turn, do a great job of clearing mental clutter. If a hectic day ends too late for a hike to the Platte or a stroll on Good Harbor Beach, just step out the back door and thank the Bright family for bringing the water closer to home.

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Photo(s) by Todd Zawistowski