LLLA volunteers use the Clean, Drain, Dry procedures to clean boats leaving Lake Leelanau.

Lake Leelanau Boat Cleaning: Protect Michigan Waters From AIS

The Lake Leelanau Lake Association (LLLA) spends a great deal of time, energy, and money on controlling invasive species in Lake Leelanau. However, we need YOUR help to prevent these hitchhikers from spreading from lake to lake. Discover how you can help prevent the spread with proper Lake Leelanau boat cleaning practices!

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.

The Lake Leelanau Narrows Boat Cleaning Station located at the Narrows DNR boat launch.
LLLA's first high-pressure water boat cleaning station is OPEN at the Narrows DNR boat launch!

Now Open: The Narrows Boat Cleaning Station

LLLA is proud to announce that the first high-pressure water boat cleaning station is now open at the Narrows DNR Boat Launch! We highly encourage boaters to use this station 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.

LLLA and GTB have plans to construct two additional high-pressure water boat cleaning stations at the DNR West and DNR Bingham boat launches. The high-pressure air station at the Bingham boat launch has been removed to construct the high-pressure water cleaning station. Please stay tuned for an announcement later this summer on the completion of these three stations!

LLLA Clean Drain Dry sign at a Michigan boat launch.

Clean, Drain, Dry Boat Cleaning Procedure

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.

  1. The Narrows Boat Cleaning Station uses high-pressure water. Use the wand to wash equipment, live wells, and boat hulls. There are specific instructions on the sign at the launch.
  2. If at home, rinse equipment, live wells, and boat hulls (with high-pressure water if available).
  3. Rinse interior compartments and flush the motor for two 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 five 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 and the Narrows Boat Cleaning Station, please, email us at [email protected].

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

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