Rules about dock placement

Q. Are there statewide rules about where I can place my dock?


The DNR regulates the state’s public water for the benefit of all citizens. Although lakeshore property owners do not own the lake itself, they do have a right to place a dock to access public water. Many activities that place structures into public waters require a permit from the DNR, but some do not.

Many dock configurations do not require a permit from DNR, but some do. Information on dock configurations that do or do not require a DNR permit can be found on our website.

There are a few rules to keep in mind. You need to own or control the land from which your dock originates and avoid posted fish spawning areas. In addition, you cannot install a dock that obstructs navigation or creates a water safety hazard.

Statewide rules do not specify where a dock needs to be placed. We do encourage dock owners to be good stewards and considerate neighbors when placing their dock. Docks and lifts should be placed so that mooring and maneuvering of your watercraft can normally be confined within your property lines as if they were extended into the water perpendicular to the shoreline, even if the curvature of the shoreline and the configuration of lot extends into the water at an angle rather than perpendicular to the shoreline.

When the shoreline curve is tight, the water level low, or an additional dock is installed; conflict can be minimized by the dock owners working together to arrive at the best placement, or by sharing a common dock.

There are some counties and communities in Minnesota that have adopted ordinances to regulate lot line setbacks and other aspects of dock placement. Your local planning and zoning office should be able to answer questions about local restrictions on dock placement.

For more information, visit

— John Gleason, DNR public waters hydrologist

For more information, call the DNR information line at 651-296-6157 or go to the DNR website at


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