Latest report regarding boating in Michigan waters

Adena-Marilyn - April 3, 2020

 Boating allowed in Michigan, Whitmer's office clarifies

George Hunter and Beth LeBlanc, The Detroit News Published 12:37 p.m. ET April 3, 2020 | Updated 4:56 p.m. ET April 3, 2020

Boating and kayaking are allowed under Gov. Gretchen Whitmer's stay-at-home order, officials with the governor's office said Friday, contradicting a state police lieutenant's earlier statement that launching watercraft was under the edict.

People fish on the Detroit River near Grosse Ile on Friday, April 3.Buy Photo

People fish on the Detroit River near Grosse Ile on Friday, April 3. (Photo: Andy Morrison / The Detroit News)

Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw told The News Friday that the governor's March 24 "Stay Home. Stay Safe. Save Lives" edict prohibited recreational use of the state's waterways. Hours later, John Pepin, a spokesman with the state's Department of Natural Resources, said boating was allowed under the governor's order.

In the wake of the confusion, the governor's office Friday updated the state website's "Frequently Asked Questions" associated with Whitmer's executive order.

"Boating falls within the outdoor activities permitted under the order," the website says. "Any outdoor activity, including boating, must be done in a manner consistent with social distancing, and individuals should use only their own equipment to prevent the transmission of the virus through the touching of shared surfaces. Additionally, in accordance with section 2 of the order, persons not part of a single household may not boat together.

"While boating is permitted under the order, the provision of boating services or supplies does not itself constitute critical infrastructure work," the state site says. "Accordingly, marinas, canoe liveries, and other similar businesses and operations may not designate workers to come to work for that purpose. As needed, however, these businesses and operations may designate workers to leave their home for work if their in-person presence is strictly necessary to conduct the minimum basic operations listed in section 4(b) of the order.

"Minimum basic operations do not include serving members of the public, but do permit work necessary to maintain the safety and sanitation of sites otherwise open to the public for outdoor recreation," the website says.


Prior to Friday's revisions, Whitmer's order specifically mentioned walking, hiking, running and biking as allowable activities, but not boating.

Meanwhile, U.S. Customs and Border Protection on Friday announced it would close small boat reporting locations across the state to comply with President Donald Trump's orders limiting travel across borders to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

Those locations include:

  • Mount Clemens — Metro Beach Public Marina
  • Detroit — Erma Henderson Park
  • Trenton — Elizabeth Park
  • Lexington — Lexington Harbor
  • Port Huron — River St. Marina
  • Algonac — Algonac Harbor Club
  • Sault Ste. Marie — Kemp Marina
  • Drummond Island — Yacht Haven Marina
  • Rogers City — Municipal Marina
  • Mackinac Island
  • The federal agency also reminded boaters that "routine small vessel travel for pleasure is non-essential."

State parks and boat launches remain open, although Pepin said state harbors are closed. "The amenities at the boat launches are closed, but you can still launch your boat," he said.

Not all states are allowing people on the waterways during the coronavirus epidemic. Los Angeles County Sheriff's deputies arrested a paddle boarder Thursday near the Malibu Pier for violating California's stay-at-home order.

There were several watercraft in the Detroit River near Grosse Ile Friday afternoon, but even if boating is allowed in Michigan, Shaw said he recommends people stay at home until the virus is contained.

"Don't look at the order and say, 'how can I find a way around this?' Look at it and say, 'I don't want to get the virus and kill my wife or husband,'" he said.

"You may think you're not doing any harm by going kayaking or boating, but you're still touching doorknobs, making contact with people," Shaw said. "What happens if you're kayaking and the Coast Guard has to come out and try to rescue you, and they expose themselves? Just stay home."

People fish on the Detroit River near Grosse Ile on Friday, April 3.Buy Photo