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Lack of rain creating challenges at Minnesota boat launches

When water levels drop during extended dry periods, 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.

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The public access boat ramp for Bowen Lake south of Backus shows many concrete strips in the shallow water, July 23, 2021. Denton Newman Jr / PineandLakes Echo Journal

The abnormally dry to drought conditions occurring across Minnesota are creating challenging conditions for people trying to get their boats into or out of the water at public boat launches, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

When water levels drop during extended dry periods, 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.

Prop-wash holes 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.

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The public access boat ramp for Pine Mountain Lake in the lagoon at Rocky Dock Park in Backus, July 23, 2021. Denton Newman Jr / PineandLakes Echo Journal

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“It can be pretty difficult to get a trailer unstuck from a hole like that,” Nancy Stewart, DNR water recreation consultant, said in a news release. “And just beyond the prop-wash hole, there’s often a mound of material that boats may get stuck on after launching, preventing them from getting to deeper water.”

Extending ramps can help in some places, but not when shallow water persists beyond the boat ramp. Stewart 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.

Visit the DNR website for boat launching maps and information on power loading.

I've worked at the Brainerd Dispatch with numerous job titles since Dec. 7, 1983. Starting off as an Ad Designer and currently as Digital Editor. The Dispatch has been an interesting and challenging place to work these 30+ years. I was present and worked on the our web page when our original BrainerdDispatch.com website first went live on April 26, 1994.
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