Your Shoreline’s Top 3 Enemies
Melting snow, heavy spring rains, and wet summers can all cause water levels – and your stress levels – to rise fast. Your shoreline may be the place you go for calmness, but the elements your shoreline must withstand are anything but calm.
Mother Nature will do as she will with your shoreline. But if you know the conditions that can chew up a shoreline, you’ll know when it’s time to revamp yours – or when it’s time to build a new shoreline that can better stand up to the elements.
Shoreline Enemy #1:
High water: High water is bad for several reasons.
Once the water level has risen above the grade of your shoreline (like if water starts creeping into your yard), the shoreline has little chance of escaping erosion. The rising water is now working away at the backside of your shoreline, where it’s weak and most vulnerable to erosion. At this point all you can do is pray that the water level drops (ASAP).
Every wave that comes rolling in (thousands a day) takes a few grains of dirt and sand “out to sea” with it as it rolls down the slope of your shoreline. Although this happens even when water levels are normal, it’s amplified by high water-levels. Because the waves roll further inland, they take that much more sand and dirt with them as they roll back “out to sea”.
Some or all of the vegetation that you had growing along or in the shoreline will die off, due to being submerged in water for days, weeks, or even months on end. When it comes to erosion control (assuming that you don’t have a riprap shoreline) any type of vegetation is good – even weeds. But regardless of what foliage helped to hold your shoreline together (grass, weeds, small scrub trees, etc.), most of it will be dead by the time the water levels recede. This will leave your lakeshore nearly naked and extremely vulnerable to erosion. At this point even average rainfall, or normal wave action can severely erode your lakeshore – and fast!
The Solution: The very best way to combat high water levels is a properly installed riprap shoreline. In the case of high-water levels, the most important factor will be a single piece of high quality filter-fabric that extends from the lake bottom, up the slope of your shoreline and is tucked under a solid border of heavy continuous concrete curbing.
Note: This curbed border can be crucial in preventing water from working its way under the protective layer of filter-fabric. But…just because this curbed border is important, doesn’t mean that it has to be purely utilitarian. Our concrete curbing can be colored & stamped to your liking and become an absolutely gorgeous addition to your newly finished lakeshore. Heck, we can even install LED lights that are integrated right into the curbing to light up your entire shoreline at night. It’s truly an amazing product! Learn more about lighted curbing ››
Shoreline Enemy #2:
Heavy winds and wave action
Heavy winds and wave action: Waves are the most common and obvious enemy of lakeshores. Again, every wave that rolls into a non-riprapped shoreline washes a miniscule amount of sand and/or dirt into the lake. The bigger and more frequent the waves, the more grains of soil that are washed into the lake. A shoreline that is not properly riprapped will eventually lose the battle, sooner or later.
Thunder storms can make the problem of heavy winds and increased wave-action worse – a lot worse. A single intense thunderstorm with sustained high winds and Biblical waves can wipe out nearly every shoreline on the windward side of a lake in short of an hour or two. The only shorelines that stand a measurable chance of remaining intact will be those shorelines that are properly riprapped.
The Solution: Similar to protecting your shoreline against high water levels, the very best way to combat heavy winds & wave action is a properly installed riprap shoreline. Again, the most important factor will be that a single piece of premium filter-fabric is used throughout your entire shoreline (from top to bottom). This fabric must extend from the lake bottom, up the slope of your shoreline, and be tucked under a border of heavy concrete curbing (not poly edging, modular concrete blocks, or other landscape edging products).
Shoreline Enemy #3:
Ice heaving, ice jacking, & pressure ridges (AKA “ice ridges”)
For the sake of your shoreline, you need to know about three ice-related, shoreline-devouring phenomena.
As the spring thaw unfolds, the ice begins to melt and break up. Because ice typically begins melting into open water along the shoreline, you now have a giant free-floating sheet of ice. Even slight winds can push this floating ice blob across the lake.
Things get exciting if the wind blows the giant ice-raft toward your shoreline. It’s as stoppable as a trainload of sumo wrestlers. Because ice becomes thinner and weaker along the shoreline, the shoreline ice begins to break up as it’s being pushed by 100 metric tons of pressure from the huge piece of floating ice. On a windy day the force will be even greater, creating enough pressure to break large pieces of ice and pile them up along your shoreline. Soon you have a mountain of ice on your shoreline, and with nowhere else to go, the main floating chunk of ice pushes into the earth along your lakeshore.
This type of ice-heaving can destroy anything in its path. It can literally push your home off its foundation.
The good news it’s probably not a potential hazard every year, and it’s typically only a real concern when the late winter / early spring thaw is slow, and/or if there are heavy winds in the early spring.
The Solution: If you have ice heaving such as we’ve described above, you’ll want to ask us about our “DNR approved” lakeshore. Many studies have been done on preventing shoreline damage as a result of ice heaving, and from those studies the DNR has developed a specific method and material to be used for constructing such an ice-heaving-resistant shoreline. In most cases, this design works very well. But due to the expense, we don’t recommend this method unless you’re on a large lake, you’re typically on the windblown side, and you’ve had ice heaving in the past.
Pressure Ridges (AKA “ice ridges”)
Ice forms throughout the winter constantly (even without much snow). The sheet of ice that covers your once-beautiful waters grows thicker and more pressurized every day. As the ice grows thicker, so does the pressure expanding both upwards, and to all sides (including your shoreline). Because water expands when frozen, the thicker the ice, the greater the pressure exerted outwards to all sides. Also, because ice floats, the thicker the ice becomes, the more buoyant it is, so now you have upward pressure. Fun fact: if ice were to release all its pressure at once, there would be a giant explosion of ice flying in two directions: up into the air, and 360 degrees outwards (towards the shore).
As ice thickens and gets more pressurized, it often “pops up” in random areas of larger lakes. These ice speedbumps are called pressure ridges or ice ridges. They’re common, and typically pose no hazard to anyone (unless you like driving across the lake at night, and you find yourself in an unexpected “Bo and Luke Duke” moment). But occasionally ice ridges appear along the shoreline. The same pressure that created the ridges will drive them deeper into your lakeshore, tearing it up in slow-mo.
The Solution: If you find yourself dealing with pressure ridges (AKA “ice ridges”), as we’ve described above, you’ll want to ask us about our “LakeshoreGuys approved” boulder lakeshores. We’ve developed a specific method and material to be used for constructing such a pressure-ridge-resistant shoreline. In most cases, this design works very well. But, due to the expense, we don’t recommend this method unless you’ve had multiple encounters with ice heaving in the past, not just a single isolated incident.
Even worse is when the expanding ice – instead of popping up and forming a pressure ridge – pushes your shoreline in, up, and out of the way. In that case, the frozen sheet of ice was so thick that it was easier for the ice simply to expand and push your shoreline out of the way than it was to break the increasingly thickening sheet of ice and push it upwards (causing an ice ridge). The ice had to expand somewhere, and your shoreline certainly wasn’t going to hold it back.
Ice jacking is typically worst in very cold winters with meager amounts of snow. With a thick warm blanket of snow, the ice stays at a fairly constant temperature, but without snow (or much snow) there’s nothing to insulate the ice from the ever-fluctuating ambient temperatures. Ice is continually changing, expanding and contracting as the outside temperatures rise and fall. When the temperature falls, ice contracts. This causes cracks in the ice, which quickly fill from the water below and refreeze. When the temps rise, the ice expands, but now because the cracks have filled and frozen, the ice has nowhere to go so it pushes up against the shoreline. Every cold warm cycle the ice goes through, this ratcheting effect takes places – hence the name ice jacking (jacking, ratcheting – same meaning). More and more pressure is put on the shoreline as the ice is being slowly jacked towards the shoreline.
Nothing will stop this expansion of ice. The pressure is so great that all you can do is kick back, pop some corn, and watch the show. There doesn’t seem to be any consistently observable pattern as to where these pressure ridges pop up along shorelines. However, there is a slight tendency for ice ridges to form farther out into the lake (i.e. in areas where there is great change in depth within a short distance).
The Solution: If you happen to be one of the few that seem to be consistently dealing with ice jacking, and you’re certain that it’s ice jacking, then we strongly recommend that you either opt for a sand shoreline. Although a shoreline that consists of nothing but coarse-washed sand (e.g. beach sand) is not an extremely durable, long-lasting solution for a lakeshore. But, at least it can fairly easily, and inexpensively, be repaired after each and every year you find yourself dealing with damage caused by ice jacking.
Any amount of money spent on a native shoreline or riprap shoreline will almost surely be destroyed by ice jacking, should it occur.
Because ice jacking (to the extent it causes destruction to the shoreline), is not extremely common along lakeshores, make sure you know the difference between ice jacking and ice heaving. There’s an easy way to tell the difference. If your shoreline damage occurs in the middle of winter, you’re experiencing ice jacking (with or without the presence of a pressure ridge or ice ridge). If your damage happens in the early spring, it’s most likely ice heaving.
Whichever one (or more) of these enemies is attacking your shoreline, let us help.
Give us call for a free phone consult and we’ll discuss your shoreline issues, develop a tentative plan,
and maybe even provide you with a rough estimate of cost.