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Healthy Shorelines

Natural Shorelines are Healthy Shorelines. Natural shorelines work as a living filter to protect and improve water quality. Some might think that natural shorelines look wild or messy, but it is important to let these plants grow. Shoreline plants trap sediment, filter runoff, absorb excess nutrients, and prevent erosion.

Planting native species creates habitat for wildlife including pollinators and species at risk that live on land and in the water. Shoreline plants also create shade to keep the water cool which benefits many species. Look for species of plants, insects, and wildlife the next time you visit a natural shoreline. 

Erosion is a natural process caused by wind, water or waves. Human activities like mowing, clearing or grading can also cause shoreline erosion. Hard materials like stone or cement can stabilize shorelines and prevent erosion. Hardening the shoreline provides limited habitat and can interrupt natural lake processes. Creating a natural shoreline will provide habitat, stabilize soils and protect water quality.

Buffers are areas along lakes and rivers where plants grow and are not mowed. Many native plants have deep root systems that can stabilize soils. The roots of these plants will prevent erosion and create habitat,. Shoreline plants can also improve water quality by filtering pollutants from runoff.

To create a shoreline buffer, stop mowing the area along your shoreline. We recommend a no-mow zone of at least 3 m (10 ft) from the water that covers 75% of the length of your shoreline.

Creating a buffer is low cost and low maintenance. You should plant native species of plants, shrubs, and perennial flowers. Until the native plants grow, you may need to remove weeds and invasive plants.

Not sure what plants are best for a healthy shoreline? Use native species to ensure that the plants you select are suitable for our watershed. 

Our Healthy Shorelines Planting Guide has photos and information about native plants species that thrive along shorelines. You can also look at the list below of native species found near water.

  • Speckled Alder
  • Downy Arrow Wood
  • Bearberry
  • Buttonbush
  • Red Chokecherry
  • Chokecherry
  • Highbush Cranberry
  • Alternate Leaf Dogwood
  • Black Chokeberry
  • Red Osier Dogwood
  • Silky Dogwood
  • Common Elderberry
  • Red Elder
  • Meadowsweet
  • Grey Dogwood
  • Nannyberry
  • Ninebark
  • Potentilla
  • Black Raspberry
  • Saskatoon Serviceberry
  • Snowberry
  • Fragrant Sumac
  • Staghorn Sumac
  • Sweetgale
  • Wintergreen
  • Winterberry
  • Various Willow Species
  • Bunchberry
  • Blackeyed Susan
  • Butterfly Milkweed
  • Cardinal Flower
  • Joe Pye Weed
  • Swamp Milkweed
  • New England Aster
  • White Beardtongue
  • Swamp Rose


Plant native species of plants along the shoreline. Don’t mow this area to create a buffer between the land and water.

Paved areas can increase runoff which can impact water quality. Limit the paved area on your property or use permeable options to allow water to seep into the ground.

Reduce the spread of invasive species by cleaning boats and equipment before moving.

Report your invasive species sightings to prevent their spread. 

Avoid using pesticides and herbicides.

Natural shorelines provide habitat for species at risk including turtles.  Report your species at risk sightings to help conservation efforts


Bioengineering is a method of shoreline stabilization that uses natural and living materials. Bioengineering methods can be as simple as using plants to prevent erosion. Many species have dense root systems that can hold the shoreline in place. Steep slopes or areas with severe erosion may required other bioengineering methods. These can include stabilizing the area using plants, rocks, logs, or tree stumps. This creates a natural shoreline that provides habitat and prevents erosion.

Find out if you need  permits and approvals for shoreline work or contact us for more information.  

Contact Parks Canada if your property is on the Trent-Severn Waterway to find out if you need a permit before starting any shoreline work.


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