High Water Brings Difficult Conditions For Holiday Boaters On The Mississippi

No-Wake Zones, Closed Boat Ramps Could Be A Challenge For Recreation Over Memorial Day Weekend

Photo courtesy of Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge

High waters on the Mississippi and other rivers in western Wisconsin could making boating a challenge this Memorial Day weekend.

Popular spots on the Mississippi and the St. Croix rivers are at or near flood stage, triggering no-wake zone ordinances for boaters this week. That’s likely to continue with a chance of more rain in the forecast for this weekend.

Tyler Strelow, a lieutenant warden for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, said it’s important for boaters to follow the no-wake rules.

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“A lot of it is to protect property such as docks and other shoreline and then it does create a hazardous wake with that many people out there and expanded water boundary of the river,” Strelow said.

Strelow said many public boat launches are also flooded along the Mississippi, making access to the river a challenge.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced this week several of their launches near La Crosse will be closed over the weekend.

“If our curbing is underwater or if we have water up on the asphalt, we’re going to close (the boat ramp) down because people can’t see where the ramp really is or they run into the curbing and can cause damage to their boat trailers or their vehicles,” said Mary Stefanski, manager of the Winona District of the Upper Mississippi River National Wildlife and Fish Refuge.

And Stefanski said operating a boat in flood conditions can be hazardous, with more debris in the river and fast moving water.

“You don’t want to get caught up in that current,” Stefanski said. “A lot of people will be launching this time of year with the intent of going to a beach to camp or just going to a beach for day use. The beaches might not even be there right now.”

Stefanski said boaters can still use marinas and backwater areas that may be less affected by flooding.