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What Is Rip Rap, and Why Is It Important?

Installation of Rip Rap in  Landscape Design

At Natural Environments Corporation, one question we frequently get asked is, “What is rip rap?” We offer this as one of our shoreline services, so we understand this question completely. In this blog post, we will explore what rip rap is and how it’s installed. We’ll also explore the purpose of rip rap, local guidelines, and rip rap alternatives. 

What Is Rip Rap? 

Rip rap is the placement of stone on your shoreline to help protect it from erosion. The installation process begins by preparing the shoreline on a slope, which is typically 3:1. A geotextile fabric is placed first, then a layer of filter rock. We’ll keep installing the filter rock until we get to a point that’s about 1-2 feet above the normal high water line. We also install a row of toe boulders about 30 inches in diameter at the base of the slope. 

What Is the Purpose of Rip Rap? 

Why is rip rap important? Rip rap can stop your shoreline from eroding, it can help with ice conditions in the winter, and perhaps most importantly, it can help enhance and protect the value of your property.

Prevent Erosion

The main reason to install rip rap is because there’s erosion on the shoreline. Some typical causes of shoreline erosion include: 

  • Wave action: As the wind blows on a lake’s surface, waves will naturally form. In some cases, the waves are at such a high velocity that they will rapidly carry sediment from the lake shore to the bottom of the lake. 
  • Boat wakes: As boats propel forward, water ripples behind them. Similar to waves, this can cause erosion. If you use boats frequently, you may need rip rap to control erosion along the shoreline. 
  • Heavy rainfall: Rainfall naturally affects slopes the most in terms of erosion. The rain falls onto the slope, and gravity carries it to the slope’s base, carrying sediment along the way. 

Help With Ice Conditions 

When most people imagine a frozen lake, they assume it’s solid on the surface until it melts. This is true, but there are a few steps in between that can prove detrimental to shorelines. 

When the sun warms the ice’s surface, there is a temperature difference between the ice in the water and the ice up top. The top ice expands while the bottom contracts, causing the ice to crack. Water can fill these cracks and refreeze, expanding the ice sheet. Then the warm air causes the ice to expand even more, which pushes soil at a rapid rate. Winter winds can push the ice sheet into the shoreline potentially causing significant damage. This phenomenon is known as ice push. Rip rap can effectively help the shoreline brace against the impact of large ice sheets. 

Enhance and Protect Property 

Over time, erosion on your shoreline leads to property loss. The more land you lose, the lower your home value will be. If you want your home to retain its value for years to come, it’s best to contact a professional landscaping company like Natural Environments Corporation which can help implement a shoreline erosion solution. 

Rules and Regulations Surrounding Rip Rap 

Before considering any rip rap project, it’s really important to understand the rules and regulations governing rip rap. Every body of water in our community has fairly strict rules and regulations about what you can and cannot do on a shoreline. Consult your local watershed district’s website to find out more about rip rap guidelines. 

Are There Alternatives to Rip Rap? 

Rip rap is primarily used in high-impact areas — in other words, areas that experience rapid erosion. For low-impact areas, we can add plants along the shoreline, and the roots will help keep the soil in place. Meanwhile, for medium-impact areas, we can use a combination of rip rap and vegetative solutions. 

Need Erosion Solutions? Contact Natural Environments Corporation Today 

what is rip rap

If your shoreline is eroding, it’s best to act sooner rather than later. At Natural Environments Corporation, we have over 40 years of experience serving clients across Minnesota. We can help preserve your shoreline and property value with solutions that last for many years to come. Contact us today if you have any more questions about what rip rap is and how we can install it. 





Our landscaping services in Minneapolis St. Paul – Twin Cities include landscape design, retaining walls, boulder retaining walls, stone walls, rip rap, shoreline erosion control, patios, driveways, helical piers and more.


Phone: (763) 544-8002
Email: Contact us