It's been a dry, hot summer so far across the Northland which has caused abnormally dry to drought conditions across the area. With more hot weather expected to close out the month of July, related issues are likely to remain if not worsen. One such issue created by these conditions is launching boats into area lakes.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reports that getting boats into or out of the water at public boat launches has been an issue for a lot of people. They say when water levels drop during extended dry periods, like we've been experiencing, the concrete ramps at boat launches may no longer reach all the way into the water and hazards such as prop-wash holes can become more problematic.

Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth
Nick Cooper - TSM Duluth

If you're unfamiliar with prop-wash holes, they are caused by “power-loading” the boat onto the trailer instead of using the preferred method of cranking it on the trailer by winch. When water levels are low, people are more likely to back their trailer past the ramp’s end and into a prop-wash hole if one is present. Once that happens, it can be challenging to get a trailer unstuck from such a hole.

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In some areas, extending the ramps may help, but that can't be done if the shallow water goes beyond the boat ramp itself.  Nancy Stewart, a DNR water recreation consultant, offers the following tips for launching boats in low water conditions:

  • Check the ramp, especially the firmness of the gravel at the ramp’s end, and the water depth.
  • Visit an alternative access site, or a different lake or river altogether, if water levels are too low to safely launch your boat.
  • Watch for obstructions in the lake, like large boulders or tree stumps.
    Expect delays at public boat launches and be patient with boaters who are having difficulty launching. You can also #BeGoodNatured and offer assistance.

You can follow the button above for boat launching maps, a Lake Superior boating guide, Mississippi River boating guide, boating safety and education guide, information on power loading and a lot more.

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