- Associated Press - Saturday, July 5, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The July 4th holiday weekend is usually the busiest of the year on many Minnesota waterways - but not this year. Record-high water levels have restricted popular recreational activities, resulting into an uncharacteristic silence on the state’s lakes and rivers.

That’s bad news for businesses that depend on revenue from water recreation but good for anglers and others who say it’s nice to have a break from the chaos, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported (http://strib.mn/1sfaAA5 ).

The state is still drying out from the second-wettest June ever recorded. Water levels are high, rivers are littered with debris and creeks are too fast and dangerous for paddling. As a result, many boaters are staying home.

“It’s very little activity,” said Capt. Greg Salo of the state Department of Natural Resources. “And the whole tubing and water-skiing thing is nonexistent because of wake restrictions.”

Across the state, emergency 30-day no-wake ordinances have been enacted on 55 bodies of water in 18 counties.

DNR officers have noticed a subsequent drop in the number of people engaging in water-based recreation. Fishing and boating are down on many lakes, including such popular destinations as Vermilion, Mille Lacs and Leech.

Businesses that depend on revenue from boaters have been crippled. Lakeside restaurants and companies that rent watercraft are among those that have seen business dry up.

But not everyone is upset. Anglers, lakeshore owners and pontoon riders are enjoying the serenity while it lasts.

“It’s so peaceful, it’s so quiet, it’s so surreal,” said Tom Jacob, who owns Bay to Bay Boat Club in Excelsior. “Everybody’s going in slow motion. But it’s really cool.”

Lake Minnetonka has also been unseasonably quiet. For more than a month, boaters have been limited to a speed of about 5 mph to create only a minimum wake. That one restriction has changed the boating scene.

On Thursday, the normally packed lake was almost empty except for a man on a paddleboard, two girls on a jet ski and a fishing guide who inched his boat along as loons ducked underwater.

“This will never happen again in 50 years,” said David Polley, of Chaska, who enjoyed a quiet pontoon ride with his family. “It’s like having your own private lake.”

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Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com

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