MANKATO — As water levels continue to drop due to drought conditions, boaters are experiencing significant issues launching and retrieving boats, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
MNR crews are repairing and extending numerous boat launches to provide boating opportunities in these low water conditions. However, little can be done to naturally fix boat ramps on shallow lakes in places where electrical charging has caused holes too deep to repair with equipment.
“Launches that have been damaged by electrical loading not only pose a challenge to launching, but can also damage boats, engines and trailers,” said Recreation Program Manager Nancy Stewart. statewide DNR aquatics. “Boaters should always exercise caution and check the boat ramp and water levels before embarking.”
Boaters are still allowed to operate on the lakes, but the DNR advises people not to load their boats and to be more careful in the shallow areas of the lakes which were once 5 to 6 feet deep and can no longer be only 3 to 4 feet deep. .
Propeller washouts are caused by power loading, which occurs when boat operators use the motor to load the watercraft onto the trailer instead of launching the boat onto the trailer with the winch. The engine digs a hole in the sand and gravel at the end of the boat ramp. Subsequently, unsuspecting boaters may back into the propeller washout hole with their trailers.
“It’s hard to get a trailer off a prop wash hole,” Stewart said. “Also, in the area after the hole there is often a mound of sand or rock deposited by the electric charge. Boats can run aground on this material and not be able to get to deep water.”
MNR staff frequently monitor water levels and push docks further into the water so that they are at an appropriate level for people launching boats or bringing them back.
As for why the water levels are so low, MNR staff blame a significant drought with much below average rainfall, which has contributed to low water levels in lakes, rivers and streams.
Water levels are a little higher than last year at this time, but are well below normal levels, said Ryan Thilges, engineer and director of public works for Blue Earth County.
The problem is widespread, affecting lakes throughout our region.
With low water levels, boaters also encounter more problems with obstructions in the water, such as rocks, sandbars and stumps, Thilges said. Since the lake level is lower than the average water level, there is a greater chance of hitting obstacles with your boat.
As water levels drop, less of the boat ramp is underwater, reducing the length of ramp available for a successful launch, reports DNR. As a result, there is a greater chance of a trailer backing past the end of the ramp when launching. Ramps can be extended in places to reduce this risk, but this is not effective when shallow water persists well beyond the boat ramp.
To successfully launch boats in low water conditions, the DNR recommends:
- Check the ramp, especially the firmness of the gravel at the end of the concrete ramp and the depth of the water.
- Use smaller boats or a different body of water if the ramp you normally use is too shallow.
- Expect delays at public access sites and be patient with boaters who have difficulty getting in the water
- Watch for obstacles in the water near the entrance, such as large rocks or tree stumps.
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