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.