Boats anchored in Lake Michigan water at Power Island in west grand traverse by near Traverse City, Michigan. (AP) Boating the safe way this Labor Day
Boats anchored in Lake Michigan water at Power Island in west grand traverse by near Traverse City, Michigan. (AP)

Going out on the lake for the holiday? Here’s what Michigan’s DNR wants you to know.

MICHIGAN — With summer winding down and many Michiganders still looking to maximize their recreation opportunities, the state is offering resources for boaters to safely and effectively navigate Michigan’s Great Lakes and inland lakes.

Recreational boating is one of the most impactful industries in Michigan, accounting for $7.4 billion in annual revenue according to a 2018 report from the National Marine Manufacturers Association.

At the time there were nearly 800,000 watercraft registered to Michigan residents, and 84% of the country’s boat manufacturers are small businesses, with 95% of those boats made and manufactured in the United States.

While the dog days of summer get most of the attention, late summer and early fall are also popular times for boaters according to Maia Turek, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR’s) resource development specialist.

“Especially this year, we’ve noticed boating has definitely seen an increase in reservations; not only harbors but boating access,” she said, adding that the increase mirrors a national trend that may be tied to the coronavirus and a need for more outdoor activities.

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According to Turek, most of the state’s harbors typically close down in October, but September still presents opportunities to get out on the lakes.

“September is certainly not a month to be underestimated,” she said, adding that thunderstorms are more frequent but boating is still popular, into the early fall season.

“It’s a beautiful way to see our fall colors.”

To support a robust boating industry, the DNR has designated 82 public harbors for Michiganders to use, ranging from Monroe County in the southeast part of the state all the way up to Leelanau County near Traverse City and the Upper Peninsula.

The Harbors were developed post-World War II after the Michigan Waterways Commission created a marine highway along the 3,000 miles of Great Lakes shoreline. They offer refuge to tens of thousands of boaters to encircle the state using safe harbors and overnight hospitality stations.

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DNR guide helps boaters prepare for boating fun

With so much shoreline to explore, the DNR has taken it upon itself to provide as much information as possible to Michigan boaters, especially those who frequent the Great Lakes.

In support, the DNR is now offering a ‘Digital Harbors Guide’ on its website in the form of a downloadable and printable PDF.

The guide includes aerial photographs and short descriptions of each harbor, as well as information on the following:

  • Harbor rules, regulations and reservations
  • Radio communication lines and what to do in case of an emergency
  • Pet care and regulations
  • Invasive plant and animal species
  • Safety tips for boaters and passengers
  • Information and coordinates for each harbor
A map from the Michigan DNR showcasing boating reservation spots. (Michigan DNR)

Online map allows for online boating registration

As part of an effort to streamline the searching and reservation making process, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has created an interactive, color-coded online map for making reservations to state harbors, including drop down menus for booking by boat size, type, date of visit, arrival and departure date, and more, similar to its recently added state park reservation map.

Select harbors can also be reserved through a boater reservation system, and may be made for all dates up to six months in advance of arrival.

For reservations call: 800-44-PARKS or visit:

Additional online boating information can be found through the Michigan Recreational Boating Information System (MRBIS).