Hydrographics Program

Division of Ecological and Water Resources (Waters)


Ordinary High Water Level

The Ordinary High Water Level (OHWL) is a term that many lake, wetland, and river property owners hear, but it is often misunderstood. The definition of OHWL from Minnesota Statutes is provided below. It is very important to contact your local DNR Waters area hydrologist for a correct OHWL determination before attempting to alter your shoreline.

Minnesota Statutes 103G.005

Subd. 14. Ordinary high water level. "Ordinary high water level" means the boundary of waterbasins, watercourses, public waters, and public waters wetlands, and:

  1. the ordinary high water level is an elevation delineating the highest water level that has been maintained for a sufficient period of time to leave evidence upon the landscape, commonly the point where the natural vegetation changes from predominantly aquatic to predominantly terrestrial;
  2. for watercourses, the ordinary high water level is the elevation of the top of the bank of the channel; and
  3. for reservoirs and flowages, the ordinary high water level is the operating elevation of the normal summer pool.

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