News release: Launching boats might be difficult this spring as drought conditions persist

April 4, 2024

More than 40% of Minnesota is in moderate or severe drought

Minnesota boaters could find launching watercraft difficult this spring due to low water levels on many lakes and rivers. The lack of snow this winter and persistent dry conditions have left lakes without the normal spring recharge. 

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is working to repair boat ramps damaged over winter and will extend boat ramps when possible. However, it is not possible to extend boat ramps on waterbodies that are naturally shallow beyond the ramp. Boat ramps damaged by power loading are also a challenge to repair. A boater might be able to launch into the space at the end of the boat ramp — however, a buildup of the material moved by power loading settles beyond the ramp can prevent boaters from getting to deeper water.

“With unusually low water levels, people launching larger boats and pontoons with longer trailers will need to pay extra special attention to ramp lengths and depths,” said Nancy Stewart, DNR water recreation consultant.

In addition to repair work, DNR crews will use the month of April to put docks in. For DNR public access sites, dock-in dates are shown on LakeFinder; search for the lake then click on water access sites noted on the lake map to find dock details on the water access site webpage.

Spring boaters should always anticipate and prepare for cold water conditions. This year, they should also watch out for obstructions such as rocks and sand bars that typically are not an issue for spring boaters.

Stewart offers the following tips for launching boats in low water conditions:

  • Launch slowly.
  • Have a spotter in the boat while launching so trailer tires and boat axles don’t fall off the last plank where an existing blowhole might be present.
  • Have hip boots or waders and a life jacket as it might help to get in the water and guide the boat or check the ramp for firmness and water depth.
  • Lower the motor only after making sure there is enough water depth.
  • Use a lake map as a guide to avoid shallow areas and watch for obstructions.

Boaters who encounter problems at a DNR public access site can contact their local DNR office or the DNR Information Center at 888-646-6367. For public water access maps, state water trail maps and boating information, go to the DNR’s public water access webpage.


Back to top