What Is Meander Line?

Meander line refers to a survey line used for mapping purposes, commonly abutting a body of water, that changes if the waterway changes.

Key Takeaways

  • Meander line refers to a survey line used for mapping purposes, commonly abutting a body of water, that changes if the waterway changes.
  • Meander lines differ from official boundary lines in that they are not fixed and constant.
  • Meander lines are used by the government to define the shore, or bank, of a body of water as well as to measure the quantity of land in the adjoining tracts of lands that are subject to sale by the government.

Understanding Meander Line

Meander lines are artificial lines drawn by surveyors for mapping and surveying a body of water. The lines are drawn around the lake or pond for the purpose of measuring property that abuts the water which means that they are usually irregular and dynamic in nature so as to account for the outline of a body of water. Typically, a meander line for surveying purposes represents the perimeter of a body of water.

Meander lines differ from official boundary lines in that they are not fixed and constant. Official boundary lines can, sometimes, extend to the center of the body of water. Meander lines are usually drawn to match the general boundary of that body of water.

To determine a meander line, a surveyor must assess the line by defining the right banks as the right hand side when facing the stream of body of water. The meander line is then determined at ordinary high water time from the right and left banks.

So, even if the high water mark should change, the meander line will stay in the same location. In some cases, such as with erosion and natural land changes, such as turning rivers, a meander line can be set against the general course instead of being strictly defined.

Meander lines are used by the government to define the shore, or bank, of a body of water as well as to measure the quantity of land in the adjoining tracts of lands that are subject to sale by the government. In these cases, the water serves as the boundary and, unless otherwise stated, the meander line is not the legal boundary. Instead, it serves to identify the area of land that is not limited to the title of the land.

There are specific rules and regulations that define what a meander line can be. For example, a meander line is considered only applicable when lands were first surveyed. Any islands or lands that arose after the land was first surveyed are not part of the meander line. All large streams, lakes, ponds, and bodies of water can be meandered, but National Parks, Indian Reserves, mineral claims and boundary lines cannot have a meander line. Shallow and intermittent streams lacking well-defined banks and streams, as well as unnavigable tidewater inlets are not meandered.