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Building a Sandy Beach
How to (and not to) create a swimming beach in a mucky area

I grew up on lake in Brainerd Minnesota so I never knew that lakes had anything but pure sand bottoms and shorelines

When our family moved to a "city lake" just 8 miles from the heart of downtown Minneapolis, my young daughters quickly let me know that the 750 feet of shoreline full of muck, silt and weeds was not going to be acceptable! After a great deal of research and testing the Weeders Digest began to take shape.

Since that time we have successfully created a swimming area witout the use of chemicals or imported sand. 

Using the tools and tips found here on the Weeders Digest should help you avoid the need to add a truck load of sand.

Here are a few thoughts regarding this practice......

Adding sand to your beach might seem like the fastest way to solve your weed and muck problems. Just bring in a dump truck and have an Insta-Beach!   It is my strong personal opinion that this is actually one of the worst ways that you can manage your shoreline. Especially from an environemental stand point.

I have seen the amount of debris and sediment that is oftentimes found in sand that is brought into a shoreline.


I know one shoreline owner that brings in tons and tons of sand nearly every year only to replace it the next year because it has washed away. Now he is considering dredging his bay because his shore sand has washed away and made his bay too shallow for navigation. Another problem with sand is that when poured over silt and muck, it's only a short period of time before the sand mixes with the silt and just makes a less manageable muck. The sand will become part of the silt and muck and if you do decide to try to remove it with some of our mechanical methods in the future it will be more difficult.

IF for some reason that you really must bring in fill, I strongly suggest adding 3/8" pea gravel rather than sand. It will stay around much much
longer because it wont wash away. It doesn't feel as
nice as fine sand but it is by far a better choice for
the long term enjoyment of your swimming area. Once the gravel is in place, it will eventually settle to the bottom to create a more stable base. The silt will come towards the top. This would be the time to use the AquaBlaster or BeachGroomer to move the lighter silt. (This is still not the most environmentally friendly method but it will be more effective than pouring sand in year after year).

Adding fill to your shoreline is an activity commonly considered as "excavation".

Always check with your local authorities before proceding.  Review "Your State Regulations" page of the WeedersDigest for more info. CLICK HERE

Below is the statement that the Minnesota DNR gives for creating a "Beach Sand Blanket".  (You may not be in Minnesota but may have the same rules)

Beach Sand Blanket - A DNR Public Waters Work Permit is not required if the beach sand:

  1. Does not cover emergent vegetation, unless already authorized by an Aquatic Plant Management permit from the Department's Division of Fisheries;
  2. Clean, inorganic sand or gravel, free of pollutants and nutrients;
  3. No more than 6 inches thick, 50 feet wide along the shore, or one-half the width of the lot (whichever is less), and no more than 10 feet waterward of the Ordinary High Water Level;
  4. Local watershed district and local zoning officials must be given at least 7 days prior notice;
  5. Site is not a posted fish spawning area; and
  6. Installation of sand and gravel may only be repeated once at the same location, not exceeding same amount and dimensions of the original sand blanket.

Below is the type of NATURAL shoreline that I grew up with....



Now, The rest of the story.....

 The entire season had been mild enough that I do not recall seeing any cars on the lake the entire year because of the unpredictable ice. The truck below  came across the lake on a warm February day that had temps in the mid 30 degree range. Without testing the ice thickness the driver went about a 1/2 mile until the back end went through the ice. With 9 tons of sand + the weight of the truck, it wasn't any surprised to me. As a matter of fact, as he passed by my home, I even made a statement to my girls to keep an eye out because I didn't think that he would make it to his destination.  About 200 yds later we heard the CRACK and he went through! 

It all ended well....It took about 5 hours to get the truck out of the ice and we were fortunate that there was no gas or oil spilled into our lake. In this particular case, the shoreline owners were following the proper guidelines to add sand above the high water mark. Three of us did fall in the hole while working to remove the truck but we were able to get out without a problem.

(PS: The WeedersDigest Newsletter is subscribed to by more people in warmer climates than in the north so for many of you, this story may make no sense whatsoever!)

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