top of page

Concerned for lakes, Wisconsin residents again urge
Natural Resources Board to ban wake surf boats

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel - Sept 30, 2023 by Paul A. Smith - Outdoors editor

Wisconsin residents used a public testimony period at Wednesday's Natural Resources Board meeting in Manitowish Waters to once more press state officials for action on wake surfing.

Click here to read the entire story

Click here to view the video from
Cedar Lake Wisconsin: Impacts of Wake Boats 

Water Quality and Wave Study from North Lake Wisconsin

Click here to read the entire important study


Terra Vigilis Inc was retained to provide a water quality and wave impact study for the North Lake Management District (NLMD). The scope of work included a two season (Phases 1 & 2) study effort to determine the wave propagation impacts on surface and subsurface portions of North Lake. North Lake is a freshwater lake located in Southeast Wisconsin in Waukesha County. The Lake is approximately 440 acres* with both drainage and spring fed aspects. The lake is fed by the small and large Oconomowoc rivers, the Mason Creek and Mud Lake (Cornell). Natural springs are located throughout both lake basins. The larger of the lake basins is approximately 338 acres with a maximum depth of approximately 78 feet. The small lake basin is approximately 102 acres with a maximum depth of 78 feet. The small lake basin has a prominent shallow water shelf around its perimeter which extends outward from the shoreline to about 100 feet. The large lake basin also has a shallow water shelf which extends outward from the shoreline at varying distances. The bottom of the lakes then slopes downward to their deepest portions in the middle of each lake. Both lake basins are comprised of various combinations of marl, clay, silt, sand, and gravel substrates.


Review of Wake Boat Effects on Aquatic Habitat - July 2023



The operation of wake boats in a manner that creates large waves can erode shorelines and resuspend sediments and is an emerging threat to natural resources in inland lakes. Wake boats can produce waves with 1.7–17 times the energy of other comparable-sized powerboats and their propellers generated enough turbulence to resuspend bottom sediments in water up to 33 feet deep. The large waves generated by wake boats take between 400–1,023 feet to dissipate to heights and wave energies observed 100–200 feet away from typical boats operating at cruising speed. Further, the use of ballast tanks in wake boats results in a dramatic increase in risk for transporting Dreissenid mussels and other aquatic invasive species and pathogens among water bodies. The cumulative negative effects of wake boats on natural resources has the potential to lead to loss of habitat, resulting in the decline of aquatic ecosystems and angling opportunity. These concerns can be mitigated by operating farther from shore to allow waves to dissipate before reaching shore, operating in deeper water to prevent bottom scour and resuspension of sediments, and disinfecting ballast tanks.Michigan’s current boating laws and regulations are intended to both promote public safety and avoid property damage but were created prior to the commercialization and popularization of wake boats in the early 2000s. As a result of the large waves and increased scour caused by these vessels, the existing 100-foot operating buffers around docks and shorelines on inland lakes are not sufficient to protect aquatic resources. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources, Fisheries Division (Division) recognizes the recreational value and popularity of wake boats, and recommends the following voluntary best operating practices in support of the continued use of wake boats while minimizing the effects on natural resources:

1.Boats operating in wake-surfing mode or wake-boarding mode, during which boat speed, waveshapers, and/or ballast are used to increase wave height, are recommended to operate at least 500feet from docks or the shoreline, regardless of water depth.

2.Boats operating in wake-surfing or wake-boarding modes are recommended to operate in waterat least 15 feet deep.

3.Ballast tanks should be completely drained prior to transporting the watercraft over land. It is recommended that awareness and voluntary adoption of these best operating practices been encouraged through outreach actions and materials to educate wake boat operators.

Click here to download the complete report.

SafeWakes is an organization that exists to create awareness about the environmental dangers, property damage, and personal safety threats caused by enhanced wakes. We aim to preserve Minnesota lakes and protect the community and rights of all lake users. Read our news updates to learn about our organization’s movement.

bottom of page