Cook County Officials Support Ban on Wake Boats on Caribou Lake

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

Following a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday, October 11, at least one local lake is taking action to completely ban the activity.

The landowners of Caribou Lake, located a few miles up the Caribou Trail from Lutsen and Highway 61, have taken action to ban wake boats from the popular lake altogether. A public hearing was held at the October 11 meeting that kicks off the process. The county council unanimously supported the proposal. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources must approve the application before it becomes official.

Wakesurfing, which requires a boat capable of generating a large surf wave, has become a popular pastime for some Minnesotans while raising concerns among others about shoreline erosion, water quality and safety, according to a 2022 study from the University of Minnesota. WTIP spoke in February with the principal investigators involved in the study, William Herb and Jeff Marr, of the St. Anthony Falls Laboratory at the University of Minnesota College of Science and Engineering.

“People were worried about shoreline damage from their docks being damaged,” Herb said of wakeboats in Minnesota. “There were safety issues for people in canoes and kayaks. Shoreline owners, lake associations, there were people who really wanted more information about these new boats and the potential impacts.

During the October 11 public hearing at the Cook County Courthouse, members of the Caribou Lake Owners Association explained 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 that wake boats could disrupt the regular nesting areas of loon families due to high waves, shoreline erosion, disturbance of lake bottom sediments resulting in the release of phosphorus and other chemicals into lake waters caused by high horsepower motors and large waves. Morris also said wake boats feared the spread of aquatic invasive species due to the heavy dumping of ballast.

The likely Lake Caribou ban doesn’t mean wake boats are banned on all Cook County lakes, according to County Administrator James Joerke. Likewise, other forms of motorized recreation on Caribou Lake are still permitted. The prohibition is specific only to wake boats and wakesurfing.

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

Earnest A. Martinez