Shoreline Restoration

Introduction to Shorelines

The shoreline acts as an important buffer zone from terrestrial to aquatic ecosystems. A well planted shoreline helps prevent pollution from storm water run-off and lawn fertilizers from entering the lake system. This allows for better water quality and less algae blooms. The shoreline also provides protection from erosion. In addition the shoreline provides privacy and a stunning view of the lake. Rice Lake's current shoreline is not in the best condition. Rice Lake has approximately 14.43 miles of shoreline, of that 8.5 miles are disturbed or in an unnatural state. Of the 8.5 miles that are disturbed, 6.6 miles of that shoreline is mowed down to the waters edge. These factors lead to poor water quality and allows for weeds to grow, like non-native curly-leaf pondweed, that is effecting Rice Lake.

"Environmental Protections such as rain gardens and lake shore buffer zones can be a personal contribution to your communities water quality"

So why is shoreline restoration important?

Shorelines trap sediments from upland run-off. They reduce sediments from entering the water, which prevents over fertilization that can lead to massive weed growth and algae blooms. Shoreline plants recycle nutrients before they are able to reach the water. A well planted shoreline helps aquatic animals sustain life and the plants protect the shallow water from warming. This makes a good habitat for minnows to live within the emergent plants. The minnows attract larger fish and this provides better shoreline fishing. Overall, shorelines preserve the ecological balance of the lake and plays an essential role in the beauty of the landscape.

Other Benefits:
  • Increased property value,
  • Reduce property loss caused from erosion
  • Protection of water quality
  • Enhances wildlife habitat
  • Less noise from traffic, roads, and nearby properties
  • Provides privacy
  • Screens unsightly views
  • Enhances scenic views
  • Keeps ducks out of your yard!

Using Native Plants on Your Shoreline

To provide the best protection and natural shoreline conditions native plants need to be used. Native plants are drought resistant and tolerant of extreme temperatures. In addition native plants are naturally resistant to pests and diseases. Once native plants become established they take very little effort to maintain. Not only are native plants low maintenance they also provide habitat and food for many insects, amphibians, reptiles, songbirds, mammals and fish. Native plants also help to prevent non-native plant growth.


Two ways to Improve your Shoreline

Passive Restoration

This is the easiest approach to restoring your shoreline. In a nut shell it is the "no-mow" approach. It is achieved by not mowing to the shore, but leaving a strip where native plants can grow. Native plants will naturally start to grow because their seeds can lie dormant and will germinate when the conditions are right. These native plants will trap harmfully nutrients and other run-off from entering the lake. This process can be sped up by removing invasive species and aggressive plants from the unmowed strip.

Rice Lake
Active Restoration

This approach promotes a native shoreline buffer strip. By actively planting native species that are appropriate to your particular shoreline. To achieve this type of restoration follow the steps bellow.

Step 1: Assess Your Property

Assessing allows for a framework for your restoration. It is important to figure out what types of plants can grow on your property. Before starting on the landscape it is very important to draw out your property. On your property map be sure to include the location of different structures located on your property; such as sewer lines, septic tanks, natural gas and water lines. Also include where the sun rises and falls each day.  Use these guide lines to  determine the pattern of sunlight:

  • Full Sun: these sites receive at least 8hrs of direct sunlight each day.
  • Partial Sun: these sites receive 3 to 6hrs of direct sunlight each day.
  • Full Shade: these sites receive less than 3hrs of direct sunlight each day.

It is also important to know the moisture conditions of your property, one property can have one or all of theses conditions:

  • Dry Upland: these sites have soil that is normally dry and is well drained. Examples: woodlands, dry grassland, sandy and graveled slopes.
  • Moist Upland: the soil here is moist but not saturated; the soil is fertile. Examples: rich moist woods and moist grassland areas.
  • Waters Edge: these sites have temporary shallow floods during the growing season. Examples: stream banks and shorelines.
  • Wetlands: these sites are slightly flooded during the growing season.

Some final considerations are having your soil tested, check with your local permits, and set up a budget to work with. Once you are done with step one you can start to design your new shoreline.

Step 2: Setting up a Design for Your Shoreline

When designing your shoreline it is important to design for the different objectives you wish to achieve. Below are different objectives along with tips on how to achieve them.


Preventing erosion: Keep the existing native vegetation. Plant new vegetation to cover any bare areas. Also use appropriate native plants in the buffer zones. Planting emergent plants can also help with erosion.

Spend less time doing yard work:  The more native your landscape, the less you will have to mow and will take less time to maintain.

Screening undesirable views: Plant trees and shrubs that will block undesirable views or to hide unappealing structures. Also these plants will help reduce noise.

Fixing existing erosion: First, figure out the cause of erosion, then get professional assistance to fix any severe erosion problems.

Creating windbreakers: Plant trees and shrubs

Attracting wildlife: Select plants that animals will use as shelter and food.

Improving views: Select plants that provide color throughout seasonal blooms. Frame your property with large trees. Also pick plants that enhance the view.

When designing your shoreline make sure to remember these facts. Make your buffer zone as wide as you can allowing for maximum benefits. Plant plants that spread quickly because they will stabilizes the soil faster. Also, vary the height of the plants to achieve the best view. Use different wildlife publications to select plant species that attract desired wildlife. Remember these objectives and facts, and soon you will be off to a beautiful shoreline.

For a list of contactor and design companies click here or here

Step 3: Planting and Maintaining your Shoreline

Bare Root Plants

If you are planting bare root plants follow these steps: First keep the roots damp and covered until you are ready to plant. Prune off any dead or damaged roots. When digging a hole make it deep enough for the roots and trunk to remain straight. Cover lightly with soil and lightly pack the surface, continue to water the plant on a regular base.


Container-Grown or Bailed and Burlaped Plants

If you are planting container-grown or bailed and burlaped plants follow these steps: Prune dead or broken branches. When digging, the hole should be two to three times larger. Before planting break up to soil around the roots.  Also if planting trees it may be beneficial to stake them. Set plant straight in the hole and lightly pack with dirt. Continue to water on a regular base.

Wildflower and Native Grasses from Seeds

If you are planting grasses and wildflowers from seeds follow these steps: Till the soil where you want to plant the seeds. Follow the instructions located on the seed packages to determine how far apart to plant them. Cover the seeds with straw to prevent erosion and to hold in the moisture. Water on a regular base. Also have patience, some native plants take along time to grow.


For a list for greenhouses that sell native Wisconsin plants Click Here

For an informational flyer click here.

For a check list for home owners click here

Links to some helpful videos

Video produced by the UW-Madison about shoreline restoration in Shell Lake.

Any questions or for more information please email us at [email protected]