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Emerald Sylvan Lakes CAre

Boat on Still Water

In this section, we have included information concerning the lake quality reports concerning both Emerald and Sylvan Lakes as well as information concerning challenges both lakes face.

Wake Boats:

Today DNR Fisheries Division released Fisheries Report 37, “Wake boats: concerns and recommendations related to natural resource management in Michigan waters.” With 3,300 miles of Great Lakes shoreline and more than 10,000 inland lakes, Michigan welcomes millions of boaters, anglers and other water-based recreationists every year. Wake boating, and towing surfers or wakeboarders behind wake boats, is an increasingly popular activity. These boats use ballast and other technologies to generate significantly larger wakes for wakeboarders to jump. Over time, though, these types of boats can potentially harm the environment.

New research compiled in the report shows that operation of wake boats can potentially threaten lake health. Several recent studies show that wake boats can produce waves of 1.7 to 17 times the energy of those created by other comparably sized power boats, and these generated waves take much longer to decrease in size, too – between 225 feet to 900 feet from the boat. These larger waves can damage property and cause shoreline erosion, decrease water clarity and plant abundance, and add excess nutrients that contribute to poor water quality.

Another design feature on wake boats directs water from the boat’s propellor toward the lake bottom. This water can generate turbulence that can kick up bottom sediments at much greater depths, which decreases water clarity and quality. Additionally, the water ballast systems in wake boats are easy places for aquatic invasive species, such as zebra mussels, to catch a ride and spread to other locations.

We know that wake boat operators want to enjoy time spent on clean, healthy lakes, just like everyone else who visits Michigan’s waters. We’ve learned a lot in the last few years about the detrimental effects these boats can have on the environment, and these guidelines can help wake boaters do their part to protect our lakes.

To protect the health of Michigan’s waters, and the fish and plant life that rely on them, through this report DNR Fisheries recommends that wake boaters should remember these three simple steps:

  • When wakesurfing or wakeboarding, during which boat speed, wave shapers and/or ballast are used to increase wave height, operate at least 500 feet from docks or the shoreline, regardless of water depth.

  • When wakesurfing or wakeboarding, never operate in water less than 15 feet deep.

  • Completely drain ballast tanks before transporting a watercraft over land.

This summary of the report was provided by one of the authors:
Joe Nohner, Ph.D.
Inland Lakes Habitat Analyst & Midwest Glacial Lakes Partnership Coordinator
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

You can find the full report here


Michigan Lakes and Streams Association looks forward to working with legislators using these recommendations to help protect our inland waters from potential harm from large wakes.

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Wake Awareness

Almost every motorboat can create a wake, which is why boaters must be aware of the danger wakes present and the damage they can do. While common courtesy dictates boaters should control their wakes, there are consequences beyond how wakes may affect people. So, what do boaters really need to know when it comes to owning their wake?

Under Minnesota law, the damage your wake causes is treated the same as damage caused by an actual collision. Personal watercraft (PWC) must stay at least 150 feet from shore. There is no required distance for boats, but by staying at least 200 feet from shore or other structures boaters can reduce the likelihood their wakes will cause damage. Boats that create an artificial wake may require more distance to lower the impact.

Be aware of your environment and what’s going on around you – this applies to everyone on and around the water.

  • Have a designated lookout to keep an eye out for other boats, objects, and swimmers.

  • If crossing a wake, cross at low speeds and keep a close lookout for skiers and towables.

  • Comply with all signs and respect barriers. This includes speed limits, no-wake zones, and underwater obstructions.

Stay away from shorelines, docks, or other structures. Backing a boat up to a riverbank or lakeshore can damage the area and lead to erosion. Travel slowly in shallow waters.

  • Travel slowly in shallow waters and avoid boating in water less than 2½ feet deep. High speeds near shorelines lead to large wakes that cause shoreline erosion.

  • Check local ordinances, restrictions, closures, and permit requirements for the body of water you are on.

  • Ask permission from the landowner(s) before crossing private property.

Minimize repetitive passes. Once you’ve run a line, move on to another area. Comply with all signs and respect barriers.

Respect the rights of others so everyone can enjoy their time on the water – keep the noise down, be courteous to other boaters, and show consideration to all recreationists on and around the water.

Environmental impacts of wakes

Large wakes produced by watercraft can result in a variety of negative environmental consequences, including:

  • Shoreline erosion;

  • Impaired water quality resulting from increased sediment in the water;

  • Loss of shoreline vegetation, which helps stabilize the shore and provides important habitat for fish and wildlife.

These impacts are greater when water levels are high and shorelines are saturated.

Boaters must be aware that their actions directly impact the environment. They should take steps to reduce their wake when operating near shore or when water levels are high.

Download "Own Your Wake" logos

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