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Update: Kayaking the Mystic – Wake free, thanks to Rep. Garballey

About a month after posting our article A Paddle Along the Mystic, a reader picked up on my comment about boat wakes and pointed out that the Lower Mystic and the Mystic River are supposed to be no wake zones.

This was very different from what I’ve experienced since moving close to the lake a few years ago. On just about every nice weekend, it is common to hear multiple motor boats and personal watercraft vehicles racing up and down the lake and river. I was vaguely aware of the no wake policy (posted on the website), but assumed it was an old rule that the authorities ignored – and was content to leave it at that.

Lower Mystic Lake on a calm evening

Lower Mystic Lake on a calm evening

However, last Saturday Jess and I were in the mood to take the kayak out for a quick paddle – but there were multiple boats zipping around the lake and the resulting wake made it nearly impossible to enjoy. At one point, just getting in and out of the kayak on the river’s shore was tricky – and potentially dangerous.

The problem is, the Lower Mystic Lake is simply too small a body of water to handle this type of motorized traffic.  Waves produced near the center of the lake quickly reach the shoreline. In addition, watching multiple boats compete for the limited elbow room in the middle of the lake had me thinking that near misses and accidents were a very real possibility.

So I decided to take our reader’s suggestion and contact my State Representative, Sean Garballey, for more information on the subject. Sean let me know that boat traffic on the lake has been an issue for a while and that it was recently brought to his attention again. He confirmed that the lake is supposed to be for power boats with no wake, and that the State Police are supposed to enforce this.

Today I received another email from Sean telling me that he talked with the State Marine Police and that they have increased their enforcement efforts on Mystic Lake, starting this past week. In addition, they will be increasing signage and efforts to make the public aware of this policy

I haven’t had many direct experiences with my elected officials, but this one definitely left me with a positive feeling. Heck, at one point Sean even offered up his cell phone number in case I wanted to discuss the matter further! That type of response and attention to issues is so valuable, and goes a long way to inspire confidence in our political process and those who represent us.

On most Saturdays, the sound of boat engines racing and revving is pretty prominent in my neighborhood, however, today is noticeably quieter… it seems like this has had some impact already. I plan on heading out for a paddle a little later with a few friends to enjoy it.   Thanks, Sean.


  1. Shauna Winterol
    Shauna Winterol07-30-2009

    Dave, Great work! The State marine Police have issued over 50 citations in the last 2 weeks! Now that sure sounds like an issue that needed to be addressed!!!

    • Dave

      Thanks for this info Shauna – and for your original comment, which pointed me toward our elected officials.

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  3. John

    With the upper mystic lake approximately 10 feet away from the lower mystic lake, why not just paddle there instead? The lower mystic lake would be a great spot to allow skiing and faster-than-headway speeds. If your kayak can’t handle the wakes from small boats and pwc’s, then just hop over the dam and enjoy the disconnected upper mystic lake. As it stands now, the only place you can legally ski, or use a boat at faster than headway speeds in the greater boston area, is out in open ocean in the harbor.

  4. Shauna Winterol
    Shauna Winterol09-27-2011

    You said it yourself, ” As it stands now, the only place you can legally ski, or use a boat at faster than headway speeds in the greater boston area, is out in open ocean in the harbor.”

    Why not just ski or use your boat at faster then headway speed there?

    We kayakers should not have to go to a different lake because you would like to break the law and create an unsafe environment for others to use the water. The reason you cannot ski or go faster than headway speed is because a small body of water with multiple fast moving boats is not only unsafe for kayakers and canoers but it’s equally dangerous for boaters and skiers. In addition it causes shoreline erosion.

  5. Dave

    When it comes to sharing public outdoor resources, my personal opinion is that when usage conflicts arise the activities with the least impact on others should have right of way. Not just for safety reasons, but as a matter of allowing the most amount of people to enjoy the resource. Kayakers can share something like the Mystic Lake with LOTS of other users… including motor boats going a reasonable speed. Motor Boats racing around at high speeds however, can really only share a lake like this with themselves.

    More so than anything though, this is about the size of this particular lake. It is just too small. Even if you kicked all other users out, I’m still not sure this is a good body of water for that activity. I can’t tell you how many times we watched boats have near misses with each other on that lake when they were not following the speed restrictions. The small size of the lake is also what plays into the problem of shoreline erosion when it comes to boat wake.

    We no longer live in that area, but these sorts of public use questions exist everywhere. In our new home this plays out between snowmobilers and cross country skiers, or hunters and hikers, for example.

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