LBLR Shoreline Restoration

By: Jerry Angst 2021

As will be explained in the article below, during the 1970s, '80s, and '90s the LBLR shoreline experienced fairly significant erosion due to the removal of the natural vegetation and its replacement with turf grass. In 1999, with the help of several state organizations (especially the DNR and the University of Minnesota Extension Service) I began a project to take the shortline back to nature, and hopefully, stop the erosion. Then, in the early fall of 2000, after the two summers of hard work had been done, Kim, the editor of the Bass Lake Association News Letter, asked if I would write an article for her, describing what was happening, and what was being done to solve the problem. Below is a picture that better illustrates the problem.

      This is what the shoreline looked like in July of 2001. The two areas marked with a "C" (for cleared) are where the natural shoreline vegetation was cleared out and replaced with turf grass. The three areas marked with an "N" (for not cleared) are where the natural vegetation was allowed to remain. The red line connects the points on the shore that were not cleared. The area between the red line and the shore is what had eroded since turf grass replaced the natural vegetation. Below is the article as it was published in the Bass Lake Association News Letter nearly 20 years ago.

How does one take a shoreline back to nature? That was the question I asked myself couple of years ago. You see, when I bought Little Bass Lake Resort in 1992, there was a line of pine trees along the lake and a lovely manicured lawn right up to the edge of the water. I loved it! My customers loved it!

But within a few years I noticed that the roots of some of the trees were sticking out into the water and that the trees themselves were nearer to the water than when I moved here. By about 1996 I had lost five or six trees due to the under- cutting action of the waves, and in some places nearly another foot of my shoreline had disappeared in those few years. Little Bass is a small lake (156 acres) and the waves are not large. As I closely watched what was happening, it became obvious that my erosion problem was not caused by catastrophic events such as storms or ice flows, but by the slow and gentle, but continuous, action of everyday small waves. Something had to be done!

About that time (1996 or 1997) I called the Minnesota Soil and Water Department seeking advice. They looked at my shoreline and mentioned that one way to "fix the problem" was to install a barrier consisting of a mesh material and a layer of rocks. This solution was acceptable to me, but the cost was prohibitive. (My problem covers 700 or 800 feet of shoreline.) I talked to them again in early 1999 but during the discussion this time they asked if I'd consider attacking the problem in a slower but more natural manner, namely restoring the shoreline to the way it was many years ago. This idea appealed to me, so at their suggestion I contacted a Minnesota Extension Service representative to discuss the project. Several people from those two organizations (plus the DNR) looked at my property and all agreed that there was a good chance of solving the problem by that method.

During the summer of 1999, the planning and design work for the upland part of the project began, and work was done in the water just off the shore. The first stage was to restore the plants in the water that were natural to my shoreline. These plants act as a natural wave break to "cushion" the effect of the waves before they hit the shore. To do this we spent several days (after we obtained the necessary permits, of course) digging emergent plants from the water near the State Land areas of Little Bass Lake, and replanting them in the water off my shoreline. We moved several pontoon loads of Cattails, Bull Rushes, Horse Tail, and Sedges from the other side of the lake and replanted them on my side, with hopes that they would survive and multiply. It was not a pleasant job!

In some areas we built "wave breaks" out of plywood sheets and fence posts to protect the plants from wave action until they were firmly rooted, and in others we simply let the plants fend for themselves. This spring the replants suffered a little ice damage, but most survived nicely. I'd guess that our success rate for these transplants was in the 75% to 80% range.

So far this year [2000], besides transplanting a few more water plants, we went through two more phases of the project. The first, in early May, was tree planting. We planted a mixture of about 140 trees and bushes, mostly on the shoreline. The trees were Spruce, White Pine, Norway Pine, Cedar, Birch, and Tamarak. The bushes were High Bush Cranberry, June Berry, and Red-osier Dogwood. The purpose of this was to replace (and add to) the trees that died, with trees that grow well in the wet (and in some places mushy) soil near the lake.

The second phase this year took place in late May when we planted approximately 1500 plants on the shoreline. The careful selection and placement of these plants was an essential part of the whole project. All of the plants are native to this area, all have very large root systems compared to turf grass, and all thrive in lake level, wet conditions like those on my shoreline. Many of the 1500 plants are grasses and things we normally refer to as "weeds", but many are wild flowers or contain colorful foliage. The key is the large size of the root systems (compared to turf grass) which will hold the soil in place so that it wont erode so readily.

The net of this, as was stated at the beginning of the article, is that the shoreline will be taken back to the way it was 50 years ago.......before it was changed to turf grass, and before it began to erode. The lawn at the edge of the water will be gone -- replaced by natural, uncultivated vegetation. The open water near the shore will be filled with cattails, bullrushes, and other water plants. The view of the lake will be impeded, as will the view of the resort from the lake. In a few years Little Bass Lake Resort will look more like a resort in the Wilds of the Northland than like a nicely manicured city park. Some of my customers will love the new look, others may not.

I was told last year that after the shoreline plants are in, I'll be in state of depression for several months (or even longer). That's because it looks like a mess right now. But from everything I've seen and heard, it will eventually look nice (if you like the "wild Up-North" look, that is) and my shoreline erosion problem will be solved. If anyone is interested in more information, or in looking at what we have done, feel free to stop over for an informal tour.

Note from today:
Here are some pictures that show the change in parts of the LBLR landscape several years after the work was done. As I predicted in the article above, some of my customers liked it, others did not!

This picture was taken in August 1997. You can see the bare shoreline, and no vegetation in the water. You can also see the stumps from some of the trees that were lost as a result of the erosion.

This picture was taken from the same spot in the same direction as the one above. It was taken in September of 2006 (nine years later). Notice the presence of vegetation both on the shore and in the water where there was none before. In fact, because of the new trees and bushes you can barely see the cabin that is clearly visible in 1997 picture. All of these new plants have put long roots into the soil to help prevent erosion

This picture (from the early 1990s) is a different part of the shoreline. Again, the turf grass extendes all the way to the water, and there is no emergent vegetation in the lake.

This is same shore line in 2006.