What is Shoreline Erosion? 

Shoreline erosion is a natural process that occurs along many lakes, streams and rivers and other large bodies of water. The erosion process, usually caused by waves, gradually removes sediments from the shoreline causing a beach to change over time.

What causes Shoreline Erosion? 

Shoreline Erosion can be caused by many factors including storms, wave action, rain, ice, winds, runoff, loss of trees and other vegetation. See other causes below.

  • Wave Action – The impact of waves hitting directly on an area of unprotected soil.
  • Ice Push – As frozen water from the lake melts it pushes or lift objects, especially with rising water levels and high winds. Many times ice is pushed up onto the shoreline in blocks or sheets which pile up and cause erosion.
  • Longshore Drift – Occurs when waves impact the shore at an angle, displacing unconsolidated shoreline materials and moving them along the shoreline.
  • Slumping – Commonly caused by groundwater exerting outward pressure on soil particles, Slumping causes a drainage area leading to the downward movement of a collection of mater moving as a unit.
  • Soil Creep
  • Frost Action - Usually caused by poor drainage, can result in heaves or depressions in the land.
  • Wind Erosion – Stong winds may affect shorelines with fine and dry soil composition.
  • Splash – Spash occurs when an area of exposed soil experiences direct precipitation.
  • Sheet erosion – This type of erosion is caused by the flow of storm water over the surface of an area. This movement of water removes “sheets” or thin layers of surface soil.
  • Rilling – The removal of soil in small, well-defined channels as a result of overland water build-up.

Human Factors:

  • Level Control Structures – These structures may raise lake levels to an unnatural point on the shoreline where soils are less able to withstand wave and ice action.
  • Clear-cutting Natural Vegetation – The removal of vegetation by landowners to maximize the amount of visibility and access to the water. This type of vegetation can help protect your shoreline by minimizing wave impact.
  • Stormwater Runoff – Created by areas with impervious surfaces, such as driveways, parking areas and roofs. Impervious surfaces around lakes collect and deliver precipitation over land instead of allowing it to infiltrate into the soil.

How TO Protect YOUR Property from Shoreline Erosion?

There are many options and/or combination of options that help prevent shoreline erosion:

Hard-Armor (Rock Ripap) Structure: A very common hard-armor technique which consists of large rocks placed in the water and up the slope along the shoreline. Riprap is usually lined with geo-textile fabric to prevent wave action from sucking soils from behind rocks, causing slumpage. Joint planting involves planting between rocks for a softer look and greater stability.  Rip rap can be used in combination with soft-armor techniques as well.

Soft-Armor Bio-Engineering: The placement of plant materials into structures that are designed to withstand wave and ice action. Soft-armor bioengineering is appropriate anywhere there are suitable conditions for plants to grow. This means adequate soil, sunlight and water. As the plants grow, their root structures naturally stabilize the shoreline.

Ryan Tree and Landscape - Riprap Shoreline