Boaters eager to hit newly thawed lakes and rivers across Minnesota should know that low water conditions at public water access sites may make boat launching more challenging this spring. Low water levels continue to create access problems at many launch ramps, and significant ice damage is still being repaired at some locations.
The Department of Natural Resources and local governments maintain a system of 1,500 public water access sites throughout the state.
Since the ice went out, DNR crews have been working to inspect and repair launch ramps, and put the docks in at the DNR-maintained public water access sites – but they haven’t reached all of them yet. This work will be accomplished statewide over the next few weeks and hopefully completed by the May 9 fishing opener.
Winter weather is always a challenge for Minnesota’s public water access sites. As lake ice expands and pushes against the shore during the winter months, it can push and buckle the concrete plank structures like an accordion. This phenomenon, called “ice jacking,” often leaves the boat ramp unusable.
Boaters can help by inspecting ramp conditions before launching their watercraft. If they find a boat ramp that is unusable, they may need to find another public water access. Locations are listed online at www.dnr.state.mn.us/water_access/index.html.
“Regardless of the time of year, it’s always a good idea to check the condition of the ramp prior to launching to ensure there are no hazardous conditions that may damage your boat or equipment,” said Nancy Stewart, boating access program coordinator for the DNR’s Parks and Trails Division. “If you find damage at a DNR public water access, you can help by reporting it on the DNR’s public water access Web page.”
Suggestions for early spring boat launching include:
- Check the ramp for broken planks, and ensure the gravel is firm.
- Have hip boots or waders available in case you need to enter the water to help guide the boat and trailer, especially where docks are not yet available.
- Lower the motor only after you are sure there is enough clearance.
- Watch for free-floating obstructions in the water.