The Size Of Your Wake MATTERS!

Many lake goers enjoy spending time taking part in boating activities. While boaters may be aware of rules, regulations, safety, etiquette, and possibly green boating practices, they may not be aware of how boat wake can affect our lakes.

While large wakes are often associated with high speed boating, it is actually slow-speed boating that creates the largest wakes (Wake Wise, 2021).

Off plane, a boat’s bow angles up and the propeller angles down which creates large wakes – this is know as “plowing the water” (Wake Wise, 2021). Hydrologists estimate that a wake 5 inches high produces limited damage to the shoreline. A 10 inch wake is 5 times more destructive and a 25 inch wake is 30 times more destructive than a 5 inch wake (Oregon State Marine Board, 2003).

Undesirable impacts of large wakes include:


Sediment can be churned up by boat wake and settle to the lake bottom. This disturbs habitat, smothers vegetation, and released nutrients (such as phosphorus) can promote weed growth and algal blooms.

Sediment can clog fish gills and suffocate fish eggs.

Disturbance and destruction of bird nesting sites along shore. Bird nests and the young can drown.


Wake may damage docks and docked boats.

Shoreline property erodes.

Stirred up sediment may cloud the water, making it less desirable for recreational activities.


Wake may endanger swimmers or anglers.

Large wakes can rock, swamp, or capsize other boats, paddleboards, kayaks, and canoes. Passengers may lose balance or fall overboard, leading to injury.

What you can do

Water-ski, tube, & wake-board well away from all shorelines. Try to make use of the entire length of the lake and find large water areas where wakes will diminish before reaching shore and where the propeller wash won’t scour the bottom.

Avoid small bays, channels, and enclosed areas.

Look behind you to see & understand the impact of your wake on shorelines, docks, or other structures. Adjust your speed & direction to minimize the impact.

Cultus Lake Photo Credit Richard Songo from Pixabay


Read the Larratt Wake Boat Study and the Laval Wake Study. Watch Boating on BC Lakes. Watch Wakeboats: concerns and Solutions for Potential Lake Degradation

Sources: Shoreline Erosion Caused by Boat Wake (2005). Environment Canada. Wake Wise (2021).

Wakes. Safe Quite Lakes. Watching Your Wake (2012). Federation of Ontario Cottagers’ Associations.

Watching Your Wake: A Boater’s Guide (2003). Oregon State Marine Board.

Photo of Cultus Lake by Richard Songo from Pixabay

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