Terms

# Meander Line: What It Means, How It Works

## 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 land 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 to measure property that abuts the water, which means they are usually irregular and dynamic to account for the water’s outline. Typically, a meander line represents the perimeter of a body of water.

Meander lines differ from official boundary lines because they are not fixed and constant. Official boundary lines may extend to the center of the body of water, while meander lines match the general boundary of the water.

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

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Even if the high water mark changes, the meander line remains in the same location. In some cases, such as erosion and natural land changes, 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 and to measure the quantity of land in the adjoining tracts subject to sale by the government. The water serves as the boundary, and unless otherwise stated, the meander line is not the legal boundary. Instead, it identifies the area of land that is not limited to the title of the land.

Specific rules and regulations define what a meander line can be. For example, a meander line is only applicable when lands were first surveyed. Any islands or lands that arose after the initial survey 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 unnavigable tidewater inlets are also not meandered.