Cook County officials support ban of wake boats on Caribou Lake
Jaye White
Outdoor News

Cook County officials support ban of wake boats on Caribou Lake

Though it has yet to catch on in Cook County in any noticeable way, the sport of “wakesurfing” is popular, and controversial, in many other parts of Minnesota.

Following a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Oct. 11, at least one local lake is taking steps to ban the activity entirely.

Property owners on Caribou Lake, located just a few miles up the Caribou Trail from Lutsen and Highway 61, took steps to outright ban wake boats from the popular lake. A public hearing took place during the Oct. 11 meeting that initiates the process. The county board unanimously supported the proposal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources needs to sign off on the request before it becomes official.

Wakesurfing, which requires a boat capable of generating a large surfing wave, has become a popular pastime for some Minnesotans while sparking concerns in others about shoreline erosion, water quality, and safety, according to 2022 research by the University of Minnesota. WTIP spoke in February with the lead researchers involved in the study, William Herb and Jeff Marr, from the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering’s St. Anthony Falls Laboratory.

“There were concerns from people about shoreline damage about their docks getting damaged,” Herb said of wake boats in Minnesota. “There were safety concerns for people out on canoes and kayaks. Lakeshore owners, lake associations, there were people that really wanted more information about these new boats, and what the impact might be.”

During the Oct. 11 public hearing in the Cook County Courthouse, members of the Caribou Lake Property Owners Association spoke about why they don’t want wake boats on the local lake. Their reasons, as shared by Fred Morris, the president of the lake association, included the fact wake boats could disturb the regular nesting areas of loon families due to high waves, eroding shoreline, disturbing the lake bottom sediment resulting in the release of phosphorous and other chemicals into the lake waters caused by high horsepower engines and large waves. Morris also said there is concern about wake boats spreading aquatic invasive species due to large ballast discharge.

The likely ban on Caribou Lake does not mean wake boats are prohibited on all lakes in Cook County, according to County Administrator James Joerke. Similarly, other forms of motorized recreation on Caribou Lake are still allowed. The ban is specific only to wake boats and wakesurfing.

WTIP’s Joe Friedrichs spoke with Joerke about the county’s action regarding wake boats on Caribou Lake in a recent interview. Audio below.