A good way to understand your own shoreline is to look at undeveloped shorelines with native vegetation around your lake or other lakes in the region. This will provide a benchmark for planning your project.
Take a camera and a notebook with you on your scouting trips to record your observations. Vary your perspective, sometimes walking along the shoreline, sometimes scanning the area from the vantage of a boat.
Good public places to visit as reference sites include state parks, natural areas, and nature preserves.
Wherever you go, look for:
- Native plant communities - Consider species composition, spacing and placement of plants, height profiles, and natural patterns. Are plants grouped in clumps or more scattered? Do certain species dominate the community while others are less abundant?
- Similarities in structure and composition, slope, rocky, mucky, algae, etc.
- Hydrology - the movement and action of water limits where species can grow.
- Zones - aquatic, transitional, and upland.