Lake Michigan

If you are looking for a magnificent place to go boating, look no further than the waters of Lake Michigan, the only one of the Great Lakes located entirely in the United States.

Lake Michigan is the third largest of the Great Lakes. It touches Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, and both Chicago and Milwaukee are located along its shores. The beaches of the Great Lakes are sometimes called the “third coast”,  although the water temperature is generally no higher than the 60s in the heat of the summer.

Did You Know? The name Michigan comes from the Ojibwa Indian word mishigami, meaning large lake.

The lake’s average water depth is 279 feet (85 meters) and its maximum depth is 925 feet (282 meters).  The habitats of Lake Michigan range from forests to marshes, tallgrass prairies, savannas,  and sand dunes. These diverse ecosystems are home to a vast array of wildlife, fish, and birds. If you are planning a fishing trip, you will find trout, salmon, walleye, and smallmouth bass. There is a large population of water birds such as ducks, geese, and swans; bald eagles, hawks, and vultures are also found in large numbers on the lake, due to the excess of wildlife to hunt.

If you wish to take your boat out on the waters of Lake Michigan, winter is a very challenging time. Winds and resulting waves – sometimes resembling ocean swells – keep Lake Michigan from completely freezing over but drastic temperature changes along the coast, shoreline erosion, and difficult navigation are to be considered.

Are you heading to Lake Michigan? Here are some of the most general boating laws. Links to each state’s specific laws are located below.

  • All states have a legal blood alcohol level for boaters who are driving, usually  .10% . If caught drinking and boating, you may be charged with a misdemeanor. If you cause “great bodily injury” you will be charged with a felony.
  • Driving recklessly jeopardizes the safety or rights of a person or property. It can include weaving through the traffic in a crowded area, veering at the last minute to avoid a collision, or harassing wildlife with the vessel.
  • It is generally illegal to operate your vessel at speeds above 55 miles per hour unless you are one mile offshore.  If a person on your boat isn’t properly seated in the bow, then any speed greater than slow or no wake speed is generally illegal.
  • Each person on board must have access to a personal flotation device. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) requires there to be at least one Type I, II, III personal flotation device that is USCG approved for each person. Children under the age of 6 must wear an approved flotation device at all times.
  • All vessels are required to obtain registration as well as a validation decals which permit you to operate a vessel on public waters legally. Rowboats, canoes, and kayaks are generally exempt; as are boats legally registered in another state who will be in other state’s waters for a short period of time.

    When filing a float plan and checking your equipment list, don’t forget to secure a Sign and Glide membership. We provide the peace of mind you need to truly enjoy a day out on Lake Michigan.

    Indiana Boating Laws
    Illinois Boating Laws
    Wisconsin Boating Laws
    Michigan Boating Laws