Boating Hazards

Wake boats may create problems in Lake Mitchell (2023)

The arrival of wake boats in recent years has raised concerns about the effects of these watercraft on the ecology of shallow bodies of water like Lake Mitchell.  These boats are built with tanks in the back of the boat that take on thousands of gallons of water causing the boat to ride bow-up stern-down. This enables to boat to create 2 to 3 foot wakes that individuals can surf without a tow rope.

When in motion, the propeller wash points downward at such an angle  from these boats that it can disturb the lake bottom stirring up phosphorus and nitrates which can result in algal blooms, uproot aquatic plants and destroy fish spawning sites.  The sediments stirred up by wake boats greatly decreases water clarity. The prop wash will stir up bottom matter 15 feet down.  The waves generated by these boats may cause shore erosion, damage or swamp boats tied to docks, and destroy waterfowl nesting sites.

After doing a study of wake boats, the Michigan DNR has recommended that wake boats run at least 500 feet from shore and not operate in water less than 15 feet deep.  


Most of Lake Mitchell's 2500 acres provides safe boating. Yet every year boats are damaged after hitting rocks or running aground in shallow water. Most boaters recommend that when entering Lake Mitchell from the Canal, head straight out or veer to the southwest. To the north or northwest are rocks. There are also several rock hazards lying offshore along the west side of the lake between Camp Torenta and Little Cove. Where there are reeds there is often shallow water. Take it easy in these areas. The entrances to the Franke Coves are shallow. Until you know the lake well, exercise caution when boating.

Underwater hazards, what can be done about them 


Every year a few watercraft are damaged by submerged rocks in Lake Mitchell. Concerned property owners have raised this concern at Improvement Board meetings. In the late 1980s the LMIB was able to take advantage of an EPA Clean Water Grant and to break up some troublesome boulders and relocate others to deeper parts of the lake. Those funds are no longer available. Following a precedent set by the City of Cadillac of not marking the hazards because of potential liability problems, the LMIB will not mark hazards. In some instances private parties have taken upon themselves to place buoys to mark rocks in Lake Mitchell.


When the dry summer weather dropped Lake Mitchell’s water level more than a foot, boats began to hit rocks and ground out in shallows. Should the waters stay low, these are some places to avoid or exercise care when boating:

1) When entering Lake Mitchell from the canal always proceed in a southwesterly direction. Due west and north of the canal is a large shallow area, containing several large rocks. This shallow area extends into the lake for more than a half-mile.

2) Obviously the presence of reeds may indicate shallow water. Exercise caution when traveling through reeds.

3) The reeds located in mid-lake actually grow in shallower water than those located near the west shore. The large reed patch located about a half-mile off shore on the west side of the lake has a long shallow sand bar extending south from this reed bed.

4) The Franke Coves are shallow and difficult to enter with a motor boat. The reed bed located in front of these coves is often too shallow to accommodate motor boats.

5) Virtually all points of land have shallow sand bars extending from them into to the lake. Use caution when rounding or crossing these areas.

6) If water is high enough to enter Wheeler Creek in Big Cove, watch for submerged logs and muck bars in the creek. The creek will become narrow as you proceed. It may be difficult to turn around.

This list should not be considered complete. There are likely dangerous boating situations that are not listed here.