With water levels extremely low at some lakes, is it already time to take the boat off the water?
Low water levels across drought-stricken Minnesota have some boaters stuck between a dock and a hard place.
Multiple conservation officers with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) noted the sagging water levels have made some access points inaccessible. This trend has even prompted some Minnesotans, worried about a further drop, to take their boats off the water entirely.
On Thursday, the DNR said that might not be a bad idea.
The agency is urging people to "consider removing watercraft early" if local water levels are low, before things get worse and getting a watercraft back to dry land becomes extremely challenging.
Nancy Stewart, water recreation consultant with the DNR's Division of Parks and Trails, told Bring Me The News water level issues are very much on a lake-by-lake basis at this point.
"It is interesting because many of the lakes are fine as there is a natural slope and good depth for launching, even with the drought conditions," she said. "However, many lakes have no concrete planks in the water and no depth for floating the boat on or off the trailer beyond the boat ramp, so they cannot launch and get to or from deeper water."
More than 40% of Minnesota is currently experiencing extreme drought. And for the first time since the current type of drought analysis began 22 years ago, a portion of the state has reached the "exceptional" drought stage. This has caused water levels along lakes, rivers and streams to fall, sometimes toward record-low levels.
The DNR said crews are repairing and extending boat launch ramps where possible on impacted waters, but on naturally shallow lakes, these fixes just aren't possible.
Adding to the overall problem is damage from power loading, which the DNR warned boaters about earlier this summer. Power loading can cause prop-wash holes, which people might back their trailer into when water levels are low.
And shallow waters mean more opportunity for rocks, stumps and sand bars to suddenly be a hazard, Stewart said.
Boaters should be extra mindful of water levels right now and have a plan for a boat removal option, if it becomes needed, the DNR said.