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Boating Safety & Regulations


Report serious incidents or dangerous activity on the lake immediately by calling 9-1-1.




The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities

Boaters on White Lake are encouraged to read and follow The Handbook of Michigan Boating Laws and Responsibilities, which contains information about the regulations enforced by the Sheriff Marine Unit, as well as valuable information about safe boating practices.

Click here to download a free .pdf copy of the latest Handbook. Keep it on your smart phone for quick reference!


Commonly Referenced Sections

Counterclockwise Direction: Improper direction is defined as the failure to operate in a counterclockwise direction except in areas marked by well-defined channels or rivers. (Unlawful and Dangerous Operation)

Slow, No Wake Speed: Improper distance is not maintaining a proper distance while operating a vessel or towing a person (Unlawful and Dangerous Operation). To maintain a proper distance when you are operating at greater than "slow, no wake speed", the vessel or persons being towed must not be within 100 feet of:

  • A shoreline
  • Any moored or anchored vessel
  • A dock or raft
  • Any marked swimming area or person(s) in the water

Speed Limit: It is illegal to operate a vessel in excess of 55 mph or faster than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions (weather, vessel traffic, etc.). (Unlawful and Dangerous Operation)

PFDs: All vessels must be equipped with a personal flotation device for each person on board or being towed.. Michigan law requires all children under 6 years of age to wear PFD when riding on the open deck of any vessel while underway. (Personal Flotation Devices (PFDs))

Riding on the Bow is illegal if the vessel is not equipped with bow seating and the vessel is operating at greater than "slow, no wake speed". Persons also are not allowed to ride on the gunwale. While underway, persons on a vessel may not sit, stand, or walk on any portion of a vessel not designed for that purpose. (Unlawful and Dangerous Operation)

Michigan law prohibits anyone from boating while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is also unlawful for the owner of a vessel to allow anyone else to operate their vessel if that person is under the influence of alcohol or drugs. (Alcohol and Drugs) The following conditions determine if you are boating under the influence:

  • If your blood alcohol content is 0.08% or greater by weight of alcohol as determined by a breath, blood, or urine test, you are considered to be under the influence of alcohol.

Mufflers: A vessel's engine must have a factory-installed muffler or exhaust system for noise reduction, or another effective muffling system. (Mufflers) Michigan law states that a vessel's muffler or exhaust system must prevent noise in excess of:

  • 90 decibels at idle from three feet away and
  • 75 decibels when measured from the shore

Who May Operate a Boat

Who May Operate a Personal Watercraft (PWC)

Requirements Specific to PWCs

Requirements for Towing Skiers



Boating Safety Course

Boaters 12 to 16, and most PWC operators, must pass the Michigan Boating Safety Course to operate on state waters. This course is offered online ($29.50) or through the Oakland County Sheriff (free - 7 hours of classroom training).



Vessel Safety Check

Conducted by the US Coast Guard Auxiliary: "Boats that pass this examination are awarded a distinctive VSC Decal that alerts the law-enforcement agencies that your boat was found to be in full compliance with all Federal and State boating laws. Frequently, such agencies will not detain or board boats displaying a current-year decal that are otherwise operating safely."

The WLCL annually offers an opportunity for members to have their boat examined on a selected Saturday in June. Click here for information about the program.







for more information
call the Hotline: 248.887.5658 (February - October)
or e-mail communication@wlcl.org (Bob Parrett)
White Lake Citizens League
P.O. Box 851
Highland, MI 48356

www.wlcl.org