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Boaters to hit the waters this Memorial Day weekend

  • 5/16/2023 1:45:00 PM
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The unofficial beginning to summer is just days away and that also marks the unofficial beginning of Iowa’s boating season. Boaters across the state are anxious to get out on the lake after the cool and wet spring and are preparing their watercraft for the long holiday weekend.

Susan Stocker, boating law administrator and education coordinator for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, said safety should be the top priority for all boaters.

In 2022, there were 28 reported boating incidents on Iowa waters: seven of those were personal injury; 17 involved property damage, and four resulted in fatalities.  Of the four fatalities, one involved alcohol as a contributing factor.

“Now is the time to review Iowa boating laws and plan to have patience at the ramp and on the water,” she said. “With the recent storms across the state, boaters should use extra caution for floating debris and higher waters.”

Stocker advised to have someone on your watercraft be a lookout for large debris that is often under the water with only a small portion showing above water. It is easy to miss and can cause major damage to your vessel. Be sure to check ahead that the boat ramps are open before heading out.

Just like any party on land, boaters should plan ahead to have a designated sober operator that is cautious with speed and on the lookout for other vessels.

Another way boaters can stay on the water is by inspecting their vessels prior to heading to the lake. 

Lifejackets should be in good condition and the right size for each person onboard. Check the fire extinguisher, boat and trailer lights, whistle, and throwable floatation.

Boaters are reminded about the requirement that drain plugs and other water draining devices must be removed and/or remain open during transport to avoid spreading invasive species. Anglers leaving with fish are recommended to put them on ice, whether in a cooler, a bucket or a live well (plug must still be removed and/or opened).

Iowa has more than 231,000 registered boats.


  • Alcohol and boating don’t mix. Wind, sun glare and heat can enhance the effects of alcohol hindering the operator’s ability to make decisions.
  • Check for open ramps or water hazards before heading out.
  • Before leaving the house, check the trailer lights, wheel bearings and the hitch.
  • Make sure there is a current fire extinguisher and horn/whistle, a wearable life jacket for everyone and a USCG approved flotation device onboard.
  • File a float plan with a friend, including your destination, expected time of return and type of boat.   
  • Wear your lifejacket - it floats, you don’t.
  • Inflatable lifejackets are light weight, comfortable and USCG approved. Wear it.
  • Take a boater education course available online at It has valuable information and many insurance companies will offer a discount on boat insurance. Familiarize yourself with Iowa’s boating laws.
  • Top two safety violations in Iowa are having inadequate life jackets and operating too fast and too close to other vessels.