Boat Cleaning Stations and Boat Wash FAQs

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) such as Eurasian Watermilfoil (EWM), can invade Lake Leelanau or be transported from Lake Leelanau to other waterways when they are carried in the bilge water of boats or wrapped on propellers or trailers. Consistent use of the boat cleaning stations at four Lake Leelanau launch sites can stop the spread of AIS. Read on to learn how to use the stations.

The Importance of Boat Cleaning

The harmful aquatic invasive species Eurasian watermilfoil (EWM) was first discovered in Lake Leelanau in 2019. LLLA, in partnership with the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians (GTB), has since undertaken intense efforts to control EWM. These endeavors have cost the partners hundreds of thousands of dollars—extravagant costs that, unfortunately, could have been avoided.

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) spread easily from lake to lake due to human activities. Some AIS can attach to boats, while others can become tangled on propellers, anchor lines, or boat trailers. Many species can survive in bilge water, ballast tanks, and motors or hide in dirt or sand, clinging to nets, buckets, anchors, and waders.

A Michigan State law is in place to prohibit transporting boats with invasive species. However, the State does not have the resources to enforce this law nor provide boaters with easily accessible means to prevent the transport of AIS. That's why we need everyone to do their part.

Our Four Boat Cleaning Stations

D RNarrowsBoatLaunch:136S.LakeLeelanauDrive,LakeLeelanau DNRWe s tBoatLaunch:4491S.LakeShoreDrive,Cedar
DNRBinghamBoatLaunch:7822E.BinghamRoad,TraverseCity Suelzer Park Boat Launch: 4343 N. Lake Leelanau Drive, Lake Leelanau

The Lake Leelanau Lake Association has installed four boat cleaning stations around the lake. We highly encourage boaters to use these stations to clean their boats before and after they enter Lake Leelanau—particularly if the boat is going to or coming from a different body of water.

Since Lake Leelanau is infested with EWM, cleaning your boat after leaving the lake and before launching into another lake is crucial for preventing the spread of EWM and other harmful AIS.

Four complimentary boat cleaning stations are available at the following locations:

DNR Narrows Boat Launch: 136 S. Lake Leelanau Drive, Lake Leelanau

DNR West Boat Launch: 4491 S. Lake Shore Drive, Cedar

DNR Bingham Boat Launch: 7822 E. Bingham Road, Traverse City

Suelzer Park Boat Launch: 4343 N. Lake Leelanau Drive, Lake Leelanau

Clean, Drain, Dry Boat Cleaning Procedure

LLLA Clean Drain Dry sign at a Michigan boat launch.

Please follow the Clean, Drain, Dry Procedure outlined below when going from lake to lake.

CLEAN off visible aquatic plants, animals, and mud from all equipment before leaving the water access site.

  • Rinse equipment and boat hulls (with high pressure, hot water when possible). Use the wand to wash equipment, live wells, and boat hulls. There are specific instructions on the signs at the boat wash stations.
  • If at home, rinse the interior compartments of boats with low pressure, hot water (120°F).
  • Flush the motor with hot water (120°F) for 2 minutes (or according to the owner’s manual).

Note: Rinsing with water removes organisms, while hot water often kills them. Water at least 120°F is recommended; avoid contact with skin and check manufacturers’ recommendations to ensure equipment can withstand high temperatures.

DRAIN motor, bilge, live well, and other water-containing devices before leaving water access by removing all drain plugs from bilges, ballast tanks, and live wells.

  • Draining removes tiny and nearly invisible organisms, such as zebra mussel larvae (veligers), potentially entrained in water-containing devices.

DRY everything for at least ten days OR wipe with a towel before reuse.

  • Drying is necessary as many organisms can survive in standing water.

For ANGLERS, the additional step of DISPOSE is recommended.

DISPOSE of unwanted bait, worms, and fish parts in the trash. When keeping live bait, drain the bait container and replace it with spring or dechlorinated tap water. Never dump live fish or other organisms from one water body into another.

Chemical prophylactics or disinfectants (e.g., bleach) are not recommended for treating watercraft and recreational equipment. 

Remember, this procedure applies to motorized and non-motorized watercraft—do not forget to clean your kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and canoes!

Please help us keep our Leelanau waters beautiful by making CLEAN, DRAIN, DRY a common practice when moving between water bodies! If you have questions about this procedure or the Boat Cleaning Stations, please email us at [email protected].


For more information about boat washing and AIS, please follow these links:

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