Deadly start to hot Minnesota boating season

The number of boating deaths at this point of summer is the highest in more than a decade.

Two boats on Fish Lake near Duluth on a recent sunny morning. The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said fatal boating accidents at this point of summer are at a decade-long high. (John Myers /

At least nine people have died in boating accidents this summer on Minnesota lakes and rivers — the most fatalities at this point of the boating season in more than a decade.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported this week that the string of hot weather also has led to more drownings of people swimming or wading in beaches and swimming pools — already at eight this summer and we aren’t even to July yet.

While early summer is traditionally a busy time on Minnesota lakes, DNR conservation officers have been reporting an even busier start this year as outdoor recreation continues to gain in popularity, especially near water on hot days.

“There are too many families who won’t be seeing their loved ones again,” Lt. Adam Block, boating law administrator for the DNR Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “It’s up to everyone who heads for the water to double-down on safety and prevent what should be a fun experience from turning tragic.”

So far, with some accident investigations still pending, none of the victims was wearing a life jacket.



The people who’ve drowned so far this season span the age, gender and swimming ability spectrum; people ages 20-88 have died.
DNR safety officials offer the following tips for staying safe around the water:

  • Wear a life jacket. All children and adults should wear a life jacket anytime they’re around the water. Each year, even adults who are good swimmers go under the water and never resurface.

  • Avoid alcohol. Its effects are magnified on the water and the consequences can be deadly. About 40% of boating fatalities include alcohol.

  • Designate a “water watcher.” This person puts down their cellphone and other distractions and focuses only on watching the water to ensure everyone is safe.

  • Wade feet-first into the water to avoid jumping into an area where the current, depth and other conditions are unknown.

  • Constantly supervise children while they’re in or near the water. Drowning often doesn’t involve yelling, screaming and waving of the arms. Rather, it often occurs silently.

  • Swim only in designated swimming areas.

For more information about staying safe on the water, go to

Minnesota boating deaths all year

2021 - 9*

2020 - 16

2019 - 10

2018 - 14

2017 - 12


2016 - 18

2015 - 18

2014 - 14

2013 - 12

2012 - 15

2011 - 16

*Through June 16

Source: Minnesota DNR

John Myers reports on the outdoors, natural resources and the environment for the Duluth News Tribune. You can reach him at
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