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It's the Law


Top Three Violations by Iowa Boaters

  • Various registration violations
  • Inadequate life jackets
  • Improper speed or distance

Unlawful Operation of a Vessel

In Iowa, these dangerous operating practices are illegal.

Reckless or Negligent Operation of a vessel or the reckless manipulation of water skis, a surfboard, or similar device is operating in a manner that causes danger to the life, limb, or property of any person.

Improper Speed or Distance (the most common violation) is not maintaining a proper speed or distance while operating a vessel. Specifically, it is illegal to operate a vessel:

  • At greater than “slow, no wake speed” in any posted “no wake zone”
  • At greater than 5 miles per hour (mph) within 100 feet of another vessel that is underway at 5 mph or less
  • At greater than 5 mph within 50 feet of another vessel that is underway at greater than 5 mph
  • At greater than 10 mph unless vision is unobstructed for at least 200 feet ahead
  • At greater than 10 mph within 300 feet of shore (except in specially zoned areas) on any inland lake or federal impoundment
  • At greater than 5 mph within 300 feet of shore on any lake in Dickinson County
  • At greater than 25 mph between one-half hour after sunset and sunrise on any lake in Dickinson County
  • At greater than 10 mph between one hour after sunset and one hour before sunrise on Lake Delhi

“Slow, No Wake Speed”–This is a speed at which the vessel does not produce a wake. “Wake” means any movement of water created by a vessel that adversely affects the activities of another person or that may adversely affect the natural features of the shoreline.

Overloading is loading the vessel with more passengers and gear than the capacity number recorded on the Registration Certificate. It is illegal to operate a vessel if its capacity would be exceeded by the persons in the vessel plus the persons being towed on water skis, a surfboard, or similar device.

Overpowering is powering the vessel beyond the recommended carrying horsepower shown on the capacity plate installed by the vessel manufacturer.

Interference With Search or Rescue is operating a vessel in areas where search-and-rescue operations are being conducted or in an area affected by a natural disaster, unless authorized to be there by the officer in charge of the operation. If authorized to enter, you must operate your vessel at a “slow, no wake speed” and keep clear of all vessels engaged in the search-and-rescue or disaster operation.

Leaving Vessel Unattended is leaving an unattended vessel tied or moored to a dock that is located immediately adjacent to a public boat launching ramp or to a dock that is posted for loading and unloading. It also is illegal to leave a vessel anchored away from the shore and unattended unless it is attached to a legal mooring buoy. Permits are required for using a mooring buoy. Applications may be obtained through the Iowa DNR.

Remember–As an owner of a vessel, you are responsible for any injury or damage caused by the negligent operation of your vessel.