Don't Try to Make a Backyard Lazy River

people on floats in a backyard lazy river
  • 1,000,000
  • Advanced
  • 80,000-500,000

When you were on vacation, enjoying the lazy river pool at a resort, you may have allowed your thoughts to wander back home, envisioning bringing the same vibe to your own backyard. And really, who can blame you? Who wouldn’t want a lazy pool meandering throughout the property to enjoy?

We’re here to give you a reality check because installing a lazy river is the exact opposite of lazy. It’s a comprehensive, borderline soul-crushing DIY task that no one should actually try. Here’s why.

1. The Lazy Design Phase

Grab a pencil and paper. Draw a rectangle. On a separate piece of paper, draw a lazy river with equal spacing, natural curves, and a uniform look. Make sure your corners are sweeping and wide enough, or you’ll find yourself in a pool floatie traffic jam as you involuntarily play bumper cars in the water.

If you’re as lazy as a lazy river, you’ll immediately see which of these two options is the easiest to draw. The same applies to installation. Imagine framing and pouring concrete for a rectangle compared to the task of a lazy river.

curved empty cement pool

In addition to the actual shape of the pool, you’ll also need to consider filters and drains. Plus, you’ll need to design the surrounding landscaping. A lazy river requires concrete not just for the areas that will hold water—most incorporate large concrete areas in between the curves too. That means building in space for landscape beds or planning to plant in raised beds. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself with a barren, hot desert island of concrete.

2. Do You Like your Friends and Family?

happy woman on float in lazy river pool

It’s one thing to enjoy your own little section of moving water when surrounded by strangers at the resort, but if you enjoy hanging out with your friends and family, you’re going to find them most often on the opposite side of the pool. It doesn’t exactly invite conversation and quality time together.

3. Jet Technology

Okay, you don’t like your family, and your sketching skills aren't great, so you’re still considering a lazy river pool. Have you ever built a hot tub? If not, it’s likely because the jets are essential components that take some skill to understand and install. A lazy river requires a current to keep you moving, and that current comes from jets—lots of jets. And pumps—several big, powerful pumps.

powerful jet underwater in a pool

4. You Lack Depth

Lazy river pools are typically not very deep, often only two to four feet. The shallow water makes it easier for the jets to do their job. However, if you want to do anything other than float, you’ll find yourself running in a squatted position just to stay underwater. And unless you have amazing built-in sonar, getting in any sort of lap workout is out of the question. The kids will also miss out on the hazards of a diving board or the ever-popular slide.

5. Extraordinary Pool Comes With Extraordinary Costs

If budget is of no concern, hire the job out and look forward to enjoying your lazy pool. Of course, you can save money by committing to the project DIY style, but you could likely build multiple standard pools for the cost of a custom lazy river pool. It’s common for the bill to be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

swimmers on floats in a tropical themed lazy river pool

6. Covering and Maintenance

The lazy pool boy loves a standard, rectangular pool with a retractable pool cover that’s manually or automatically expanded and rolled back up. The cover just sits at the end of the pool, neatly tucked away until it’s time to cover up for the day or the season. A lazy river, however... well, we’ll let you imagine how one would go about covering it.

Much of the maintenance is the same as for a standard pool, including balancing chemicals and cleaning out filters, but an ill-devised lazy river pool will force leaves and other debris into bends where the current drops off.

There are also more pumps and jets, which inevitably means more replacement parts down the road. So in addition to the ridiculously high price to build it in the first place, your lazy pool could run $500 per month in costs. But hey, if you have time to make money and still enjoy the pool, go for it!

Backyard Lazy River FAQ

Can you add a lazy river to existing pool?

Lazy river rides have a continuous current that keeps the water moving along a usually winding path. Home swimming pools are typically shaped like circles, squares, or rectangles, and the water doesn't move.

Changing the shape of an existing pool is about as easy as building a new pool from scratch, but you can add jets or a waterfall feature to an existing pool to create moving water.

How deep should a lazy river be?

Typically, lazy rivers are at least six feet wide and three and a half feet deep. This does vary, but if you are close to this width and depth then you have a lazy river.

How many gallons of water are in a lazy river?

It takes a lot of water to make a lazy river happen. A lazy river that is 10 feet wide, 120 feet long, and five feet deep will have over 50,000 gallons of water.

To put that in perspective, a standard home swimming pool that is five feet deep and measures 12 by 24 in dimension will hold about 10,000 gallons of water.

How big of a pump do you need for a lazy river?

If you want to move the water at around one to two miles per hour in a lazy river, you need a pump with at least 10 horsepower. Pumps can be as powerful as 40 horsepower.

Who made the first lazy river?

There are perhaps multiple origins for the lazy river, including a 1940 Wisconsin man who was famous for operating a nightclub at which customers could float on a nearby river in inner tubes while drinking their beer. Princess Chumbhot of Nagar Svarga was credited for popularizing tubing by Sports Illustrated in the 1960s.

However, the term lazy river was first used in the 1970s by the founder of SeaWorld, George Millay, who is credited with creating the first water parks in the U.S.