Boat Wakes and Water Quality

How boat wakes affect water quality, shoreline erosion, wildlife, and other boats

The NH DES has published a Fact Sheet on the potential impact of motorized boats on New Hampshire’s lakes.  Careful boating will minimize these adverse affects which include disrupting wildlife, disturbing lake-bottom sediment, eroding the shoreline, and endangering other boaters.  Some of these risks are highlighted below, but more information is included in the Fact Sheet which can be found by clicking here.

A wake can flood a loon nest and cause the loon to abandon the nest.  These nests are usually only 4-6 inches above the water and are vulnerable to water level changes. Loons are a protected species.

The wake can also swamp kayaks and canoes especially if a boat is making quick turns.  A paddler can be caught by wakes from two different directions.

Please be aware that when a boat is on plane (level) the wake is the least—and when you slow down, such that the bow is higher than the stern, the wake is the greatest.  Large wakes cause shoreline erosion, undermining shoreline trees and shrubs and accelerating the aging of the lake.

The propulsion from a boat’s motor can also disturb the bottom of the lake, increasing sediment in the water, reducing water clarity, and releasing phosphorous into the lake.  This is most significant in shallow areas – the average depth of Lake Wicwas is only 13 feet!  Click here to see a map of the water depth across the entire lake.

When the lake water levels are high (1 foot above normal), docks may be only inches above the water and much of the normally exposed shoreline is awash, so it is important to not let your boat create a wake. Please stay at headway speed if you need to use a boat on the lake when the lake level is high to minimize damage to docks and erosion to the shoreline.

Pay attention to the 150 foot rule — stay 150 feet from any person, place or thing. If you are pulling a skier or person in a tube, they are considered an extension of the boat and must obey the same rule. They cannot swing in closer than 150 feet to any person, place or thing such as a dock, float, boat or swimmer.

No wake means headway speed, which is the slowest speed at which you can maintain control of the boat, less than 6 MPH.

Click here to read the “Boater’s Guide of New Hampshire,” a handbook of boating laws and responsibilities, from the NH Department of Safety.

Thank you for your cooperation in practicing safe boating and respecting the ecology of the lake.

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