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Officials urge boaters to stay safe as the holiday weekend approaches

Boats are heading out onto the water and the DNR is helping lake goers with some helpful tips to stay attentive during summer festivities.
Credit: KARE
Boat on ramp-Stock Image

MINNEAPOLIS — DNR officials say 800,000 boats are registered in Minnesota and that means heavily populated lakes and rivers from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day.

The land of 10,000 (actually, 11,842 lakes) is expecting record boaters as the weather warms and there is a list of things officials are recommending boaters do to stay safe out on the water. 

How to safely load boats:

Officials warn that loading your boat using your motor or engine power can severely damage both your boat and the ramp that you're using. There's a chance when you do this that you can back it into what's known as "the hole." In some cases the only way to retrieve your boat is with a tow truck. A less harmful way to load is to use the trailer winch to load and unload your watercraft. Public launches typically have 24 hour access and are free unless otherwise posted. Trailers and carry-in are expected with a 12-18 foot boat parameter (some launches can handle more). 

Invasive Water Species:

Aquatic species that are non-native to Minnesota are considered invasive and they can be found not only on land but also in the water. They are deemed dangerous because they can cause both economic and environmental harm as well as being potentially damaging to human health. 

A few of the most common invasive species in our waters are zebra mussels and Eurasian watermilfoil. 

Credit: DNR
This photo shows some of the zebra mussels found in Lake Pleasant.

According to the DNR, 8% of Minnesota lakes are on the "infested waters list," with a little less than 4% of those being due to zebra mussels. Infestations can occur in lakes, rivers, wetlands or ponds. It's important that boaters clean their boat and equipment, drain water from the boat and dispose of unwanted bait in the trash.

The importance of wearing your lifejacket correctly:

Minnesota law requires there be one U.S. Coast Guard approved lifejacket for each person on the watercraft. All children under the age of 10 must wear a lifejacket at all times unless they are below the top deck, in an anchored boat that is at an approved swimming location or aboard a charter with a licensed captain. 

Officials say that in Minnesota around 30% of fatalities involving a boat happen in cold water where the victim is not wearing a life jacket. Hypothermia is the largest threat when falling into icy water. Check here for a list of tips to keep yourself above water if you or someone you're with slips in. 

All boats must be registered when on the lake:

Boats may be registered or renewed online and in-person registrations are limited. The DNR License Center is located at 500 Lafayette Road in St. Paul. Some out of state boats and those 10' or less non-motorized may not be required to have a watercraft license. Your registration is good for three calendar years.

Drinking while driving a motorized watercraft:

"Boating under the influence is illegal and is the single greatest factor in fatal boating accidents. Keep the alcohol on shore for the safety of friends, family and everyone on the water," says the DNR. 

Those over the age of 21 may not have a blood alcohol level over the state law of .08%. If caught under the influence or intoxicated by either drugs or alcohol it may result in a BWI (Boating While Intoxicated). There are degrees of BWI severity as directed by Minnesota water patrol branches and Minnesota law. 

National Safe Boating Week:

The White House has proclaimed May 21-27, National Safe Boating Week as a reminder to boaters to go over safety skills and prepare for the upcoming season. 

Whether you're on a motorboat, canoeing, paddle boarding or using a jet ski, there are a list of things that you can do to make sure boat etiquette is being followed on the lakes and rivers this summer. 

It's also important to remember to have fun, and soak up the sunny water days while they're here. 

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