High water, heavy rain slow boating across Minnesota

  • Article by: KELLY SMITH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 6, 2014 - 7:58 AM

Fewer boaters are spending the holiday weekend afloat, but for some, no-wake rules are a blessing.

The July 4th holiday weekend usually is the busiest of the year on Lake Minnetonka and many other Minnesota lakes and rivers.

Not this year.

After the state’s second-wettest June ever, record-high water levels have restricted boating, littered rivers with debris and made creeks too fast and dangerous for paddling. That’s affected everything from swimming to canoeing and boating, turning normally raucous lakes full of jet skiers, wake boarders and water tubers into tranquil lakes dotted with a few slow-moving sailboats and fishing boats.

“There’s just nobody boating,” said Capt. Greg Salo of the state Department of Natural Resources. “Waterways are high, rivers are moving fast, and there’ve been thunderstorms. It’s very little [recreational boating] activity. And the whole tubing and water-skiing thing is nonexistent because of wake restrictions.”

Across Minnesota, 55 bodies of water in 18 counties have emergency 30-day no-wake ordinances since the DNR decided in June to give counties, cities and townships more authority to address shoreline erosion and keep boaters safe on high water. In Prior Lake, the city has shut down boat slips on Watzl’s and Sand Point beaches, canceled its annual Fourth of July Boat Parade, closed Watzl’s Beach to swimming and instituted a no-wake rule across the lake.

As a result, some boaters are just staying home.

Last weekend, when DNR officers launched their annual drunken-boating sting, not a single drunken-boating citation was issued for the first time, and officers only checked 387 boaters — one-third the number last year. DNR officials report that fishing and boating are down on many lakes, including major destination waters such as Vermilion, Mille Lacs and Leech.

And in the metro, Lake Minnetonka — which hit a record-high level in June — has a first-ever lakewide wake rule, crippling business for everything from lakeside restaurants to gas stations, boat repair companies and watercraft rentals that profit off what is normally the Twin Cities’ busiest lake.

But the no-wake lake also has anglers, lakeshore owners and pontoon riders rejoicing in a break from the chaos.

“It’s like being in the Boundary Waters, except in a powerboat,” said Tom Jacob, who owns Bay to Bay Boat Club in Excelsior. “It’s so peaceful, it’s so quiet, it’s so surreal. Everybody’s going in slow motion. But it’s really cool.”

Water’s going down, slowly

While some metro area lakes, including Plymouth’s Medicine Lake and Chanhassen’s Lotus Lake and Lake Susan, have lifted wake restrictions, water levels on other popular lakes like Prior Lake and Lake Minnetonka are still too high. Lake Minnetonka reached a record June 23 at 931.11 feet above sea level. Since then, it’s dropped about 3 inches, but it’s still about 7 inches too high.

For more than a month, it’s been against the law to boat on Minnetonka at a speed that creates more than a minimum wake — which, depending on the boat, can be about 5 miles per hour.

And it’s changed the boating scene. On July 3, the normally packed lake was almost empty. A man paddleboarded across the glassy water between Excelsior and Wayzata. Two girls rode a jet ski, crawling across the quiet bay. And loons ducked underwater as fishing guide Kurt Erickson inched his boat along on a typical 10-minute trip that took 45 minutes.

But, he said, “It’s a lot easier to fish.”

For David Polley of Chaska, the no-wake lake provided a quiet pontoon ride for his family past the normally rowdy party scene of Big Island. Only a small boat, kayak and fishing boat were in view.

“I like this; if I was on a different boat and water skiing, I’d feel different,” he said. “This will never happen again in 50 years. It’s like having your own private lake.”

The lakewide wake restriction is expected to remain in place on Minnetonka at least through July 12, according to the Minnehaha Creek Watershed District, which monitors water levels. The Watershed District also recommends that kayakers and canoers stay off Minnehaha Creek because of dangerously high fast-moving water and debris.

  • related content

  • Video: Morning forecast: Warmer, more humid

    Saturday July 5, 2014

    Morning Star Tribune Local Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul) Weather Video Forecast

  • MnDOT reopens Hwy. 41 bridge as Minnesota River flooding subsides

    Saturday July 5, 2014

    The Hwy. 41 bridge over the Minnesota River in Chaska is now reopen.The state Department of Transportation reopened the bridge,...

  • A man used a paddle board to cross an unusually serene Lake Minnetonka as the holiday weekend began under a no-wake rule.

  • David Polley of Chaska rented a pontoon boat to cele­brate the 14th birthday of his daughter, Olivia.

  • A family of loons, Minnesota’s state bird, swam along the calm surface of Lake Minnetonka on Wednesday.

  • A buoy informs boaters of the rules in force on Lake Minnetonka designed to minimize shoreline damage caused by wakes.

  • A soaked spring

    55 Minnesota rivers and lakes with wake restrictions

    11.36 inches of rain in the Twin Cities — second-wettest June on record

    931.11 feet above sea level — new record for Lake Minnetonka, set June 23

    929.82 feet above sea level — one year ago Saturday

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

Click here to send us your hunting or fishing photos – and to see what others are showing off from around the region.


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Milwaukee 115 FINAL
Orlando 100
New York 82 FINAL
Indiana 103
Denver 69 FINAL
Memphis 99
Chicago 118 FINAL
LA Lakers 123
Montreal 1 FINAL
NY Rangers 0
Winnipeg 2 FINAL
Philadelphia 5
Boston 5 FINAL
NY Islanders 2
Arizona 3 FINAL
Toronto 1
Dallas 6 FINAL
Ottawa 3
Detroit 1 FINAL
Tampa Bay 5
Columbus 2 FINAL
Florida 3
Nashville 4 FINAL(SO)
St. Louis 5
Minnesota 1 FINAL
Calgary 0
Buffalo 2 FINAL
Edmonton 3
Anaheim 3 FINAL
San Jose 6
DePaul 72 FINAL
Providence 83
Michigan State 71 FINAL
Rutgers 51
Boston Univ 67 FINAL
Army 71
Fla Atlantic 61 FINAL
Charlotte 86
Youngstown St 87 FINAL
Detroit 93
East Tenn St 55 FINAL
Furman 59
Saint Louis 60 FINAL
George Mason 68
USC Upstate 78 FINAL
Jacksonville 65
High Point 72 FINAL
Liberty 53
Central Conn St 55 FINAL
Long Island 67
Western Ky 56 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 69
Dayton 64 FINAL
Massachusetts 66
Chattanooga 72 FINAL
Mercer 75
Wofford 58 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 42
Maryland 56 FINAL
Ohio State 80
Old Dominion 71
Fair-Dickinson 65 FINAL
Robert Morris 87
Mount St Marys 67 FINAL
St Francis-NY 73
Bryant 68 FINAL
St Francis-PA 75
Northern Ky 75 FINAL
Stetson 85
Coll of Charleston 70 FINAL
Towson 74
Western Carolina 85 FINAL
Va Military 70
Sacred Heart 64 FINAL
Wagner 75
Lipscomb 62 FINAL
Fla Gulf Coast 78
Kennesaw St 67 FINAL
North Florida 86
Appalachian St 46 FINAL
Ga Southern 83
Holy Cross 54 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 64
Eastern Ill 51 FINAL
UT Martin 81
Jacksonville St 82 FINAL
Belmont 103
Connecticut 58 FINAL
Cincinnati 70
Rider 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 49
SIU Edwardsville 75 FINAL
SE Missouri St 61
Marshall 69 FINAL
Southern Miss 54
Tenn Tech 56 FINAL
Tennessee St 64
Middle Tennessee 58 FINAL
TX-San Antonio 69
Ill-Chicago 65 FINAL
Milwaukee 71
Weber State 67 FINAL
North Dakota 60
Denver 54 FINAL
North Dakota St 61
IUPU-Ft Wayne 66 FINAL
South Dakota 55
Louisiana 85 FINAL
South Alabama 89
Ark-Little Rock 75 FINAL
Arkansas State 65
Georgia State 88 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 74
Troy 55
Portland 46 FINAL
Gonzaga 64
Kentucky 69 FINAL
Missouri 53
Eastern Ky 78 FINAL
Murray State 85
Texas-El Paso 71
Idaho State 76 FINAL
Northern Colorado 79
Grand Canyon 78
Chicago State 62 FINAL
Utah Valley U 78
Colorado 98 FINAL
USC 94
Cal Poly 57 FINAL
UC Irvine 67
Hawaii 84 FINAL
CS-Northridge 73
Pepperdine 50 FINAL
Pacific 43
Santa Clara 64 FINAL
San Diego 69
Utah 59 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 64 FINAL
UC Davis 70
Montana 73 FINAL
Portland State 54
Montana State 59 FINAL
Sacramento St 75
Long Beach State 91 FINAL
Cal State Fullerton 85
Loyola Marymount 54 FINAL
St Marys-CA 68
San Francisco 74 FINAL
BYU 78
California 76 FINAL
Washington St 67
Louisiana 47 FINAL
South Alabama 57
Saint Josephs 51 FINAL
Saint Louis 52
Appalachian St 77 FINAL
Georgia Southern 74
Niagara 58 FINAL
Saint Peters 65
Old Dominion 80 FINAL
FIU 67
Southern Miss 65 FINAL
Marshall 67
Georgia State 45 FINAL
TX-Arlington 57
Ark-Little Rock 69 FINAL
Arkansas State 70
Troy 90
Pittsburgh 45 FINAL
(17) Duke 62
(6) Tennessee 73 FINAL
(10) Kentucky 72
(24) Oklahoma 81 FINAL
(14) Texas 84
Nebraska Omaha 59 FINAL
IUPU-Ft Wayne 70
UC-Riverside 68 FINAL
CS-Northridge 56
Army 65 FINAL
Boston U 40
New Orleans 40 FINAL
Nicholls 56
Charlotte 68 FINAL
Florida Atlantic 71
Towson 54 FINAL
Delaware 72
Hofstra 66 FINAL
Northeastern 45
New Hampshire 56 FINAL
Maine 87
Albany 89 FINAL
Vermont 48
Hartford 60 FINAL
Stony Brook 58
UNC-Wilmington 62 FINAL
William & Mary 67
Clemson 62 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Alabama 54 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 85
(23) Syracuse 58 FINAL
(8) Louisville 78
Missouri 68 FINAL
Florida 52
Iona 66 FINAL
Fairfield 77
Manhattan 38 FINAL
Marist 77
NC State 63 FINAL
Virginia 71
(4) Notre Dame 74 FINAL
Virginia Tech 50
(22) Rutgers 58 FINAL
Purdue 49
(5) Maryland 91 FINAL
Michigan 65
Milwaukee 58 FINAL
Cleveland State 67
Wright State 108 FINAL
Oakland 89
Jacksonville 64 FINAL
USC Upstate 66
North Florida 40 FINAL
Kennesaw St 46
Stetson 62 FINAL
Northern Ky 68
Loyola-Maryland 57 FINAL
Holy Cross 51
Lamar 87 FINAL
Sam Houston St 68
Fla Gulf Coast 71 FINAL
Lipscomb 49
Vanderbilt 44 FINAL
(18) Miss State 69
Western Ill 73
Abilene Christian 53 FINAL
Houston Baptist 50
Incarnate Word 54 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 63
McNeese State 78 FINAL
SE Louisiana 57
Oral Roberts 46 FINAL
South Dakota St 71
Louisiana Tech 66 FINAL
Western Ky 82
TX-San Antonio 53 FINAL
Middle Tennessee 73
Texas-El Paso 52 FINAL
UAB 67
Auburn 47 FINAL
Arkansas 52
Grand Canyon 65 FINAL
Illinois 57 FINAL
(15) Nebraska 59
(20) Iowa 102 FINAL
Northwestern 99
Utah Valley U 55 FINAL
Chicago State 60
Green Bay 67 FINAL
Valparaiso 52
Ole Miss 41 FINAL
LSU 70
Portland State 31 FINAL
Montana 72
Sacramento St 64 FINAL
Montana State 91
North Dakota 55 FINAL
Weber State 48
Ohio State 85 FINAL
Wisconsin 73
Northern Colorado 61 FINAL
Idaho State 70
San Francisco 63
St Marys-CA 56 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 49
Pacific 63 FINAL
Pepperdine 59
Cal-Irvine 61 FINAL
UC Santa Barbara 58
San Diego 64 FINAL
Santa Clara 61
UC Davis 64 FINAL
Cal Poly 72
Long Beach St 64 FINAL
Hawaii 72
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Should the lake where the albino muskie was caught remain a mystery?

Weekly Question