Celebrating 75 years of launching boating adventures

Michigan is celebrating the 75th anniversary of the waterways program this year, allowing access and infrastructure to boaters in the state. There are currently nearly 1,300 boating access sites in Michigan. Through the harbors of refuge program, local and state harbors are available nearly every 30 miles along the 3,288 miles of Great Lakes Shoreline, which is longer than the Atlantic coast. Plus, our state is home to some 11,000 inland lakes.

The Michigan State Waterways Commission, a seven-member advisory commission appointed by the governor, was created in 1947 to advise on how Michigan would place, fund, and manage harbors to provide safe, navigable boating on Michigan’s Great Lakes. The program has evolved significantly since its early charge and today is looking toward the future of boating to ensure our state continues to be a world-class freshwater boating destination.

“With the abundance of opportunity for boating in Michigan, it’s no surprise that our state is the third largest marine market in the country, which is impressive since we’re a four-season state,” said MBIA Executive Director Nicki Polan, also a former waterways commissioner. “We are grateful for the Michigan DNR’s stewardship and leadership of the MI Waterways Commission as they help facilitate access to the water for all Michiganders.”

There are more than 800,000 registered boats in Michigan, along with 600,000 legally unregistered paddle craft. In 2020, more than $1.3 billion was spent on new boats, motors, trailers, and accessories. The industry has a $7.8 billion economic impact on Michigan’s economy annually. “Access to the water is crucial to this important industry, MBIA will work to continue to find funding and opportunities to keep improving the waterways program and the sustainability of boating,” said Polan.

The Michigan DNR invites everyone to help mark this Michigan maritime moment. Visit Michigan.gov/DNR/CelebrateBoating to learn ways you can celebrate, including:

  • Signing up for “Water Wednesday” texts.
  • Seeing aerial drone footage of some of Michigan’s harbors and marinas.
  • Sharing your photos.
  • Learning about the upcoming Waterways Adventure Lab and Paint the Waterways programs.
  • Learning about new sustainable boating efforts.
  • Downloading free coloring pages.
  • Finding 75th anniversary merchandise.

For more information on boating, including a product and service directory, consumer events calendar, safety laws and tips, the latest news, and more – visit the home page.

MBIA is a non-profit trade association representing more than 350 marine businesses and serves as the voice for Michigan’s $7.8 billion marine industry. MBIA is dedicated to the advancement, promotion and protections of recreational boating in Michigan. MBIA produces Michigan’s big three boat shows: the Progressive Detroit Boat Show, Progressive Novi Boat Show and Progressive Metro Boat Show. Proceeds from these events go back to the industry through MBIA programs and services. For more information about MBIA and its boat shows visit www.mbia.org.