Drainage with high water table
Our yard is a little bit of a challenge. At one point a few hundred years ago, my little piece of property was in the Arkansas River. The river has since moved almost a mile to the east, but it's left some great things and some not so great things behind for us. The soil is fantastically rich--you have to have a black thumb to NOT get something to grow in it. Unfortunately, though, it also brings with it an incredibly high water table, as we discovered when digging post holes for a privacy fence. The water table is only about a foot down, so when it rains for more than a day or two in a row, standing water and flooding is a major issue for about half of our backyard. We had 20 inches of rain above our average last year (for a grand total of 80+)--you can imagine I'm more than sick of water and mud.
I guess I'm looking for tips on ways to rectify this. A standard french drain won't work, I don't believe, since the high water table keeps the soil very saturated, even during the dry summer months. There's a section at the back of the property that I'd like to turn into a pond. It's already a low-lying spot that collects a lot of the standing water and rain runoff (but by no means all), so it shouldn't be much of a stretch to convert it to a pond. How could I divert some of the other problems areas to this one site? Also, what kind of plants and trees should I use to help drainage around the property and around the pond specifically? I've considered purchasing a weeping willow, a bald cypress or a river birch, but I know there are other possibilities out there. Cost is a factor. I've got a giant dead mimosa that will be coming down soon (yet another reason for standing water--the 40 foot beast no longer sucks up the excess), and I do intend to replace it with a variety of water-loving trees, shrubs and plants.
If anyone has any ideas or tips, I'd love to hear them!