DNR expects heavy traffic on Wisconsin waterways for 2022 boating season

More people are also kayaking and stand up paddleboarding
Published: Jun. 1, 2022 at 7:48 AM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - Memorial Day weekend marked the unofficial start of summer and staff from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources said many boaters, new and experienced hit the water for the weekend. However, the DNR said there are some lessons that can be learned from the holiday weekend.

Even though the weather was hit or miss, the DNR said it saw what it expected to see out on the water for the weekend.

Boats lacking the proper number of life jackets were the top reason for citation this weekend. Other citable offenses include improper registration, lack of safety equipment like fire extinguishers, and impaired operators.

Operators who don’t have enough life jackets for all rides is a frustration for DNR staff.

“Which is scary considering, you know, nationally, and Wisconsin is no different, 80% of our boating fatalities are the direct result of drowning. And most of those people either aren’t wearing their life jackets or don’t even have their life jackets on board their boat. So was it expected? Yes. Did we try to get a message out before the boating season? Yes. And yet it still was a pretty common boating violation,” Boating law administrator for the Wisconsin DNR, Darren Kuhn said.

Kuhn said many people will take their life jackets out for winter storage and have a tendency of forgetting to put them back. Or, some may have switched the jackets over from the fishing boat to the hunting boat in the fall and ended up never being returned.

Overall, he said Memorial Day weekend was a good glimpse of what the 2022 boating season will be like-- there were just enough people out on the water for others to get a feel of what the rest of the season has in store.

Even though it’s still early into the season, he said there is a noticeable difference of people out on the waters from the end of last season to now.

“With boat landings being full and where people are parking on streets to get out onto the water, just traveling around the different areas of the state where the cottages are full again, the hotels and lodges are full again and the Airbnbs are full. So with people getting out and get getting back to their normalcy the increase is there,” Kuhn said. “The increase in paddle sports is just getting crazy on the number of people kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding now.”

He said also explained that many people have been using paddle crafts at night.

“Which becomes you know, a danger of its own with the powerboat community just needing to look out for the paddle craft, because they’re out there and just keep that in mind when traveling especially at night. But in reality, anytime be aware of the boater that doesn’t know the rules of the road and be aware of the paddle craft that may be out for that midnight cruise that you need to be more alert than you have been in the past and share the waterway and practice safe and ethical boating habits.”

Overall he said as long as everyone stays safe and follows the rules, it should be a successful boating season.

“The boating public has to be aware that the waters are going to be more congested than they have been, you know, in the last few years. And be patient. Not everyone is an expert boater not everyone knows the rules of the road. We all have equal rights to use our waterways in the state of Wisconsin, they’re all public. And we just have to be respectful of the way people recreate.”

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