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How to Safeguard Your Shoreline When Building a Waterfront Log Home

Save your “blank slates” for art and interior design projects. When it comes to landscaping a waterfront log home, starting from scratch is a bad idea. Here’s how to make the most of your home’s water views.


 The roots and foliage of mature shrubs and trees act as a natural filter, keeping runoff and debris from entering the water. Photo by fotolia.com/dplett


When planning a log home, it’s natural to be drawn to a site near a body of water. What could be more relaxing than listening to the soothing sounds of a flowing river or taking in the morning mist atop a glassy pond? If you love log homes, chances are you also love to feel at one with the outdoors. If enjoying watery views is part of your plan, it’s essential to take care not to sabotage these magical moments before they can ever happen.

Unwittingly or not, many builders and landscapers take a “clear everything” approach when prepping a build site. This seems to make sense, since that’s often what would happen on a typical, non-water-edged site, and it would enable you to put grass all the way down to the shoreline.

But here’s the problem, and it’s a big one: That strategy is so hazardous to the health of a lake or river’s ecosystem that it has led to serious, irreversible degradation of numerous bodies of water (and, is now even illegal in some states). In other words, that sweeping lawn is likely to kill the very water source you are so eager to enjoy. 

Here are some alternate strategies to preserve your land and water views:


Retain Existing Vegetation

Creating a “blank slate” and then planting trees and shrubs is tempting, but it’s better to work with the bushes, groundcover, trees and other plants that are native to the shoreline. They provide a built-in filtration system thanks to their deeply established roots. These root systems not only keep runoff from invading the water, they also support pollinators, frogs, dragonflies and other critters that are vital to the water’s health — and the health of the plants around your shoreline.


Control Runoff

Observe the way water flows through your property and whether there are spots susceptible to shoreline erosion. This usually happens when water runs quickly, wearing away the edges of the lawn. Consider tactics like adding a rain garden with water-tolerant plants, implementing a hill or mound of dirt and stone that can redirect the water or creating a small trench that will slow its flow.


Connect With Local Resources

No one knows regional waterways like the representatives of the Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and they also know the laws related to shoreline maintenance. They’re happy to be a source for homeowners looking to protect the water, prevent erosion and maintain water-quality.


Mix it Up

The best shoreline protection includes a medley of plant species that have varying root depths, as opposed to a single type of bush or tree. This is also true for the areas where water collects on your property. Pay attention to these spots and consider whether they’d be ideal for a garden or flower bed. Varying plant types not only helps maintain water quality, it is also a visually pleasing part of any landscape plan.

Look to the USDA plant-hardiness zone you live in to choose vegetation that’s right for your location. Regardless of what you grow, thoughtful planning and a focus on water quality will go a long way toward keeping your lake, river, pond — or even ocean — an asset for years to come.


Leave Your Mark

As you prepare for your log home’s construction, be sure to clearly mark any trees or plants that you want to save during lot prep by tying a bright neon ribbon or other obvious marker to each one you want to protect. Also, be sure your builder installs a protective filter-fabric along the site’s perimeter to prevent debris or runoff from finding its way into the water. These simple measures will provide the construction crew with indisputable boundaries.


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