Boats & Pontoons

This is a summary of the most common rules, regulations, and recommendation for operation of boats and pontoons on Prior Lake.

New For 2017: No inflatable water devices such as air mattresses, inner tubes, or similar water toys can be towed through ANY no wake channels.

For the full version from the City of Prior Lake, please visit:  

For the complete Minnesota Boating Regulation Guide: 

Registration of Watercraft:

All watercraft (motorized or not) over 10 feet in length must be registered with the State of Minnesota. This registration must be kept on board on all motorized watercraft at all times. Non-motorized watercraft are not required to keep the registration on board but must be able to produce it for a enforcement officer in a reasonable amount of time if it is requested.

Life Jackets:

Appropriate size US Coast Guard Approved life jackets are required for all passengers under 10 years old. Adults are not required to wear life jackets but there must be enough life jackets (appropriate size and readily accessible) for everyone on board.  Watercraft over 16 feet must also carry a throwable life preserver and a whistle or horn is also required on watercraft 16 feet of longer. Children under the age of 10 are not required to wear life jacket on a watercraft that is anchored for purposes of diving or swimming.

Fire Extinguishers:

Fire extinguishers are recommended on all motorized watercraft required on all that have enclosed engines or fuel tanks/storage – this includes personal watercraft.  Only motorized watercraft that have unenclosed portable fuel tanks with no floorboards, decking, or a cabin that could trap vapors are not required to have a fire extinguisher. An example of this would be a fishing boat with an outboard engine, portable exterior gas tank and no enclosed areas.

Age Requirements for Boat and Pontoon Operation:

Operators less than 12 years of age:

  • 25 hp and less:  No restrictions. This means that any child under the age of 12 years old can operate a boat with 25 hp or less without supervision.
  • 25 – 75 hp: Must have someone at least 21 years old within reach of the controls.
  • Over 75 hp: No operation allowed even with someone 21 years old within reach of the controls.

Operators 12 -17 years of age:

  • 25 hp and less: No restrictions
  • More than 25 hp: Must have either a Watercraft Operator’s Permit or someone at least 21 years old within reach of the controls.

To obtain a Watercraft Operators Permit, please check out the course options below:

Speed Limits:

  • DAY TIME (Sunrise to 30 Minutes after Sunset):
    • 40 mph speed limit applies to weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
    • NO speed limit for any weekdays all year and weekends before Memorial Day after Labor Day.
  • NIGHT TIME (30 minutes after Sunset to Sunrise):
    • 20 mph all year, every night, including weeknights, weekends and holidays.

General Operation and Navigation:

Observe and obey all no wakes zones and other navigation buoys

Navigation lights (red and green on bow, white on stern) are required from sundown to sunup.

Please use docking lights for docking purposes only as they wash out the red and green navigation lights.

Inflatable water devices: No inflatable water devices such as air mattresses, inner tubes, or similar water toys can be used more than 150 feet from shore unless accompanied by a watercraft.

Swimmers: All swimmers more than 150 from shore must be escorted by a watercraft.

Water skiing, surfing, wakeboarding and similar activities are not allowed from ½ hour after sunset to sunrise. When towing a water skier, wakeboarder, surfer, tuber, or other similar activity, an observer is required unless the boat or pontoon is equipped with wide angled mirrors. However, it is recommended that an observer be on board regardless of the mirrors. It is also recommended (but not required) that the observer carry a red flag for display when the person being towed has fallen or is waiting in the water.

Non-motorized Craft: Non-motorized craft (sailboats, canoes, etc.) have the right-of-way over motorized craft in all situations, except when the non-motorized craft is overtaking or passing.

Move Over Law: When approaching and passing a law enforcement watercraft with its emergency lights activated, the operator of a watercraft must safely move the watercraft away from the law enforcement watercraft and maintain a slow no-wake speed while within 150 feet of the law enforcement watercraft.

Passing: When overtaking another watercraft going in the same direction, the craft being overtaken must maintain course and speed. The passing watercraft must keep a sufficient distance to avoid collision or endangering the other craft from its wake.

Meeting: When two watercraft approach each other “head-on,” each must alter course to the right to avoid collision. If the two watercraft are far enough to the left of each other, no change in direction is needed for safe passage. Both watercraft will maintain their course and speed to pass clear of each other.  Keep to the right in narrow channels.

Crossing: If two watercraft approach each other at a right angle, the watercraft to the right shall have the right-of-way.


  • Operate a watercraft in a reckless or careless manner.
  • Operate a watercraft in such a way that it’s wake endangers, harasses, or interferes with a person or property.
  • Operate a watercraft in such a way that it obstructs or interferes with navigation of other watercraft.
  • Operate a watercraft with within 150 feet of a scuba divers warning flag or an area legally marked off as a swimming area.
  • Ride on or sit on the gun whales, bow, transom, or decking over the bow, sides or stern of any motorboat while underway, unless it is equipped with an adequate railing.
  • Chase or harass wildlife.
  • Intentionally obstruct any seaplane attempting to land or take off.
  • Attach a watercraft to any buoy except a mooring buoy.
  • Tamper with, remove, or destroy a navigational aid or buoy.
  • Litter on any waterbody or at any public access.
  • Operate a motorized watercraft while impaired by a Blood Alcohol level over 0.08 or by other controlled substances.
    • The same fines and penalties apply for Boating While Intoxicated (BWI) as Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) in a motor vehicle on the road.
    • Open bottles ARE allowed on watercraft and the driver CAN drink alcohol but not to the level of legal intoxication (0.08 % BAC). 

Please Enjoy Prior Lake Respectfully and Safely!