Lake Shorelines & Beach Tilling

Lake Shorelines & Beach Tilling

lake shoreline
When multiplied around the lake, individual shoreline alterations have a cumulative effect on a lake.

Sandy beaches are desirable by many homeowners, but will harm the lake and it’s wildlife. Consider leaving the majority of your shoreline natural as wildlife habitat and erosion control, rather than tilling the entire stretch of your lake shore property.  

The #1 threat to Inland Lakes is habitat loss

  • 40% of Michigan’s inland lakes suffer from habitat loss
  • 3-4% of Michigan’s inland lakes are harmed by nutrient load
  • Beach tilling and seawall installation = habitat loss = decline of amphibians and ground nesting birds
  • The domino effect of beach tilling is loss of biodiversity and increased risk of invasive species and lake damage


Love Your Lake! There are many conservation practices that will help improve the health of your lake.

Native Plants

  • Plants that grow naturally in the region and are best suited for the environmental conditions on the lake shore
  • Deep, fibrous roots help keep soil in place–decreasing loss of shoreline footage
    • absorb wave and ice energy to protect the lake bottom plants and animals
  • Require little supplemental care (i.e. watering, mowing, etc.)
    • drought or high water, native plants are used to the fluctuations of the regional climate
  • Trees and shrubs will help buffer the noise of lake activities
  • Include flowers and grasses that support native wildlife, insects, and amphibians


  • Tilling a sand beach increases the erosion of your shoreline and increases sediment in the lake
    • increased sand in the lake harms or even kills the aquatic life that breaths with gills (such as fish and many aquatic insects that fish eat) and can smother fish and amphibian eggs
  • Beach tilling and adding sand requires continuous care and expense
    • the decrease of shoreline plants and using machines to haul sand or till the beach area increase your carbon footprint


  • Short grass lawns invite Canadian geese
  • Lawn (turf) grass has a shallow root system that provides almost no soil stabilization
  • Fertilizers used on shoreline lawns can run off into the lake
    • fertilizers cause an increase to the harmful nutrients in the lake
    • more nutrients=more harmful algae growth
  •  Lawns require continuous care through mowing, watering, and fertilizing
    • these activities also increase your carbon footprint


  • Create a major obstacle for shoreline mammals that need land for part of their lifecycle (turtles lay their eggs on land)
  • Lead to the scouring of the lake bottom
    • wave energy cannot be absorbed by a solid wall and is directed downward to the lake bottom

What Are Your Options?

Consider the four shoreline choices listed above. How do you want your shoreline to effect the lake? If you chose Native Plants, read the list below on where to find more information and where you can start to refurbish or continue to conserve your shoreline. If you chose Beach, the 7th option is beach specific, but consider the other links and information as well.

  1. Score your shore! Take this test to see how your shoreline rates. The Michigan Shoreland Stewards Program provides recognition for lakefront property owners who are protecting inland lakes through best management practices on their property.
  2. Find out more about converting your lawn and beach into a Natural Shoreline. Follow the link, or call our office for information and to find which local companies have certified natural shoreline professionals.
  3. Read The Water’s Edge booklet to learn more. This DNRE Guide explains the problem sea walls and beaches pose to inland lakes and offers solutions for homeowners.
  4. Take a workshop from Michigan Natural Shoreline Partnership or visit their website. Our staff can help bring this workshop to your homeowner’s or lake association.
  5. Learn more. MSU Extension offers many courses related to lakes, streams, and the conservation of our natural resources. Visit their website or call our office for more information.
  6. Partner with community groups or your Conservation District to help strengthen protections for shorelines.
  7. While a harmful activity, beach tilling is legal in Missaukee County and requires a Soil Erosion and Sediment Control permit. In addition to private landowners, the City of Lake City and Missaukee County Parks both maintain beach areas on Lake Missaukee. Download your permit application from the Soil Erosion tab at the top of the page and submit to our office. A DEQ permit is required for some beach/lake front work.


“Recent studies have shown how critical shoreline habitats are to the health of the entire lake. If you want great fishing you need to protect the shoreline.” -Rebecca A. Humphries, DNRE Director


Natural shoreline “landscaping” can be as natural as you like. Several different examples are pictured here: