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Michigan boating

single boat moving across the water

Michigan boating

Surrounded by one-fifth of the planet’s fresh surface water, it’s no surprise Michigan is home to great boating and fantastic freshwater recreation opportunities. Easy access to these waters ensures they are available to all, with more than 1,300 public boat launches and 82 public harbors across the state.

75 years of better, safer access to Michigan boating

Since 1947, the Michigan State Waterways Commission has helped launch boating adventures and more equitable public access to our lakes, rivers and streams. Join in celebrating this chapter of Michigan’s boating heritage all summer long!

Celebrate boating

Before you go

boating safety certificate

Boater safety certificate

Boaters born after June 30, 1996 and most personal watercraft operators must have a boating safety certificate.

boat registration

Boat registration

All watercraft, unless exempt, must be registered. All registrations expire on March 31 in the third year of issuance.

Check closures

Know before you go - check our closures page for updated information on boat launch and harbor closures.


Safety information

Understand safety information including life jacket rules, water safety and electric shock drowning hazards.

Where to boat

Great Lakes harbors

Find resources to help plan your Great Lakes boating trip, including the harbor guide, making a reservation, a harbor map and more.

Boating access sites

Locate and map more than 1,300 Michigan public boating access sites and 80 harbors and marinas administered by state, county, and local units of government.

Boat rentals in state parks

Many of our state parks offer boat rentals, including canoes, kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, paddle boats, row boats and more.

BoatUS sponsors WiFi installation at seven harbors

To help boaters stay connected while enjoying their getaway, BoatUS announced that it is installing complimentary WiFi at seven Michigan state harbors. While supply chain challenges have slowed installation progress, WiFi has already been added to Mackinac Island State Harbor. Thanks to this BoatUS partnership, seasonal and transient boaters will soon enjoy WiFi at Cedar River, DeTour, East Tawas, Lexington, Presque Isle and Straits state harbors.
Michigan handbook of boating laws and responsibilities

Rules and regulations

Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws

A comprehensive handbook defining Michigan's boating laws and regulations, navigation rules, weather emergencies, encountering other vessels and much more.

Read the handbook »

rules and regulations

ALL boat laws, rules and regulations

Learn about alcohol restrictions, hours of operation, buoys and markers and much more.

operator age restrictions

Age restrictions

Learn how old you need to be to operate a boat or personal watercraft (such as a wave runner/jet ski)

life jacket

Life jacket rules

Who needs to wear a life jacket and what type of personal floatation device needs to be carried on your boat in Michigan.

no wake zone

Local watercraft rules

Know the rules about motorboats, high-speed boating, water skiing and more for particular waterbodies.

Boating and fishing laws Video

Boating and fishing laws

To help prevent the spread of invasive species, there are laws that address the removal of drain plugs and aquatic organisms from boats and trailers, and the disposal of unused baitfish.

What you need to know

At work for you

Learn how our waterways are managed to best provide outdoor recreation opportunities for you and future generations.

The Michigan Waterways Program helps fund the construction, operation and maintenance of public boating facilities such as harbors and marinas on the Great Lakes and boating access sites on our inland lakes.

Managing parks, trails and waterways »

Waterways Commission »

Boating news

"Park Here with Recreation Passport logo"

Recreation Passport

Your key to Michigan state parks, recreation areas, state forest campgrounds, boating access sites and state trailheads all year long. See where it can take you!