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What is Lake Mapping and Surveying – And What’s the Point of It?

written by
Ashlee Haviland


Why Should You Map and Survey a Lake?

Lake and pond surveying and mapping unearth a wealth of knowledge for your lake management and planning needs. Each method of lake mapping – vegetation, bathymetric, and sedimentation/hardness mapping – provides unique insight into assessing areas of your waterbody that would have otherwise gone unnoticed, let alone enough understanding to properly plan and budget for. And, as you are no doubt already aware, lack of planning often leads to sudden mishaps that wreak havoc on your budget.

Clarke’s team of experts bring decades of experience and top technology to their lake mapping and surveying strategies, as well as effective recommendations based on your surveying results. Contact us here to get started on learning the ins-and-outs of your lake.

What is Surveying, Mapping, and Bathymetricy?

Lake mapping uses a boat equipped with GPS units and depth-sounding equipment as well as a trained expert to survey the entirety of the waterbody. The survey starts at the perimeter and then works back and forth across the lake body, assigning waypoints that are correlated with depth, vegetation, and sedimentation to provide accurate and detailed reporting. Once this assessment is completed, its data is extracted to create easy-to-read informational maps detailing the location and levels of the lake’s depth, vegetation, and sedimentation.

Typically, there are three maps that will be provided to you at the conclusion of a lake survey:

1. Vegetation Mapping: Surveying Lake Plants, Algae, and Invasive Weeds

Lake vegetation mapping details the placement and density rates of native littoral, shoreline and submerged / underwater plants as well as algae and invasive weeds – all of which can reach nuisance levels that impede recreational activities.

As you can see in this image, vegetation levels are shown on a sliding scale depicting the percentage of growth coverage in a particular water column (a section of water that runs from the water’s surface to the bottom sediment). Clarke Aquatic Services analyzes the collected data and determines the areas that should be treated and the most efficient product to do so depending on the community’s unique water management goals.

Some of the benefits of lake vegetation mapping include:

  • Locating invasive weeds and plants – learn more about the types of plants in your lake or pond here
  • Determining density levels of native as well as invasive species
  • Monitoring for invasive species and putting in place measures to help prevent algae blooms

2. Bathymetric Mapping: Surveying Lake Depths and Contours

Lake depth / bathymetric mapping utilizes GPS integrated with depth-sensing technology to chart lake bottom contours and volume levels. These are crucial to water quality as well as aquatic plant and algae management, as well as a useful tool for estimations of fish stocking.

In this image, depth levels are again shown on a sliding scale – allowing one to easily see the contours and water depths of a lake and their exact locations.

Some of the benefits of lake bathymetric mapping include:

  • Properly choosing, sizing, and placing an aeration system
  • Mapping the waterbody for boat navigation, fish restocking, and more
  • Using volume levels to determine types of herbicides needed to treat weeds and algae given EPA regulation

3. Sediment Hardness Mapping: Analysis for Removal and Dredging Planning

It is critical that you remain up to date with the structural integrity of your lake’s floors and perimeters, as well as monitor and map its habitat parameters. Sediment analysis allows you to determine the level of sedimentation –the accumulation of organic and inorganic matter with soil erosion being the major contributor to lake and pond sedimentation runoff, often in the form of grass clipping, leaves, fertilizers and chemicals as well as other litter – within your lake, and estimate a timeline for future dredging needs.

This 3D rendering details the sediment / hardness levels of a lake, again on a sliding scale from soft to hard. Clarke Aquatic Services provides a sediment analysis that determines how much sediment has accumulated and where, as well as when it will need to be removed or lessened, or in extreme cases dredged, and the estimated costs of doing so for future budget planning.

Some of the benefits of lake sediment hardness mapping include:

  • Planning and budgeting for sediment removal / dredging
  • Determining the stability and composition of lake bottoms for structures such as docks
  • Implementing sediment / debris filtration practices

Our experts at Clarke have years of experience working with a vast variety of lakes and communities, with a focus on catering to their unique needs and goals and an emphasis on using science-based techniques and technologies to do so. To learn more, contact our team here, or check out other articles such as