Lake Michigan Bluff Erosion

Lake Michigan Bluff Area

The Ozaukee County lakeshore is 25 miles long and ranges from low beaches to high, erosion-prone bluffs. Coastal erosion is a natural, dynamic process that affects how we can utilize and possibly preserve the bluff areas along Lake Michigan.

Lake Michigan Coastal Bluff Stability

Ozaukee County’s Coastal Resilience Self-Assessment indicates a high probability of several coastal hazard issues including shoreline recession and bluff failure. Lake Michigan bluff erosion and stability is a complex process resultant of numerous factors including: the dynamics of Lake Michigan (e.g. wave attack, lake levels, and beach width), soil type (e.g. type, composition, stratification, and moisture), land use, land cover, bluff angle, long shore current and sediment budget and surface and subsurface drainage (e.g. groundwater). Lake Michigan bluff erosion and stability is a concern to many landowners, public land managers and elected officials due to land values, property assets, land uses, economics, Lake Michigan access, ecological value and public health and safety. Current collaboration the University of Wisconsin Madison’s Department of Geoscience and the Wisconsin Geologic and Natural History Survey through the project titled “Local Factors Influencing Bluff Failure in Ozaukee County Parks” involves both data collection and analyzation to better understand, and in turn, predict bluff erosion/slumping behavior at County Parks along the Lake Michigan shoreline (e.g. Virmond Park, Lion’s Den Gorge Nature Preserve). Additional work to ensure coastal resiliency along the Lake Michigan shoreline is needed.

Below you'll find a number of links to local bluff studies, projects, and other related activities. If you have any questions or comments, we encourage you to get in touch with us. View a presentation on bluff erosion in Ozaukee County. 

For more information, please visit this Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources webpage and the Southeastern Wisconsin Coastal Resilience website.

Also, check out the latest updates to the WI Shoreline Inventory and Oblique Viewer! Read an accompanying article here.