Docking Rights for Inland Lakes

The right to a dock in Michigan

Under Michigan law, a riparian or littoral property owner has the right to place a recretional and seasonable dock on an inland lake. No permit is required under the Natural Resources and Environmental Protection Act.

The right to a dock is included among a riparian property owner's right to make natural and artificial use of the water in the watercourse; the right to construct and maintain a dock; and the right to use the entire surface of the watercourse for recreational purposes.

However, an installed dock must be reasonable in size and scope as to not interfere with traffic upon the lake or deprive other riparian owners of the same uses. What constitutes "reasonable" is not a bright line rule; courts decide on a case-by-case basis. A water rights/riparian attorney can assist you.

If, on the other hand, a riparian owner wants to have a permanently installed dock or erect a dock for commercial purposes, a Part 301 permit is required from the State of Michigan.

The legal ability or right to dock can be obtained via a plat, deed, easment, reservation, or sometimes, but rarely, by prescriptive use.

For docks, marinas, and boat lifts on the Great Lakes or waterways under federal jurisdiction, a permit from the Army Corp of Engineers is needed.

Protect Your Rights

OLC represents private land owners regarding disputes with local governments, enforcement officials, neighbors, home and property owners associations, and others. If you are having issues with lake access or docking rights, contact a riparian rights attorney at Outside Legal Counsel today.