Spring is a good time to review dock and platform regulations

May 6, 2021

Before installing or investing in a new dock or dock platform, lakeshore owners should check to ensure it will meet state requirements. Lake service provider businesses should also review the regulations, to ensure the equipment they sell or install is in compliance.

Dock and dock platform size are regulated in Minnesota by the Department of Natural Resources to provide a balance between the protection and utilization of public waters. Docks and dock platforms allow riparian landowners to access and enjoy public waters. 

However, oversized dock systems can have a variety of negative impacts, including interfering with other riparian owners, presenting safety and freedom of navigation issues for boaters, shading out important aquatic plants, and eliminating critical habitat where fish spawn, feed, grow and find shelter from predators.

A dock is a narrow platform or structure extending from the shoreline out into the water intended for mooring watercraft and to provide access to deeper water for recreational activities. A dock may not be more than 8 feet wide and may not be combined with other similar structures to create a wider dock.

A modest platform at the lake end of a dock is allowed under certain conditions. A single, temporary platform up to 120 square feet measured separately from the access dock, or 170 square feet including the area of the adjacent access dock, is allowed if the following conditions exist:

  • The access dock must be 5 feet wide or less, and
  • The dock must be on a lake with a shoreland classification of general development or recreational development.

In addition to size requirements, dock owners are encouraged to design and locate their dock to avoid interfering with their neighbor’s use of the water. A dock cannot be longer than needed to achieve its intended use, including reaching navigable water depths.

Docks must not obstruct navigation or be a water safety hazard and must allow for the free flow of water beneath them. A dock should not close off any part of the lake to other users and must comply with any local ordinances.

Minnesota’s current dock and dock platform regulations have been in existence for many years, but not everyone is familiar with them. Lake residents might assume that if another lakeshore owner has a dock with a large platform, it meets the state’s rules. Sometimes, that isn’t the case.

A helpful document about state dock requirements is available on the DNR website. Local DNR hydrologists can assist lake home owners with questions about docks.

The DNR website also contains links to other helpful information for lakeshore owners about shoreline erosion control and restoration projects to help improve water quality and fish and wildlife habitat.