Mobile Boat Wash Program 2022 season wrap up

The Mobile Boat Wash Program has wrapped up its 8th season of boat wash events for organizations across Michigan dedicated to aquatic invasive species prevention.

Person standing in parking lot at event demonstrating how to clean boats to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. Demonstration boat is a small, wooden model on top of a black mat preventing contaminated water from re-entering waterways.
Ian Keller demonstrating to children at the Keepers of the Shiawassee Riverfest event how to clean boats to stop the spread of aquatic invasive species. It is important to always check all key parts of your gear for potential hitchhikers. Photo from David Lossing.

With Michigan having over 800,000 boats registered in 2022, recreational boating and fishing can be a major pathway for aquatic invasive species to spread to any body of water, including the thousands of inland lakes Michigan has to offer. These invasive species can be prevented by the simple acts of cleaning your boats before and after entering a waterbody, draining any bilges and live wells, and drying your boats after retrieval from a waterbody. Michigan State University (MSU) Extension’s Mobile Boat Wash Program, overseen by MI Clean Boats, Clean Waters, provides educational opportunities with a hands-on approach to help stop the spread of these invasive species. The Mobile Boat Wash Program just finished its 8th season this year and the crew is already prepping for next year’s travel across the state.

What happens at these events and where does the Mobile Boat Wash go?

At a boat wash event, our crews provide educational literature, a hands-on demonstration of boat decontamination to help stop the spread of aquatic invasive species, and talks with boaters about the simple steps they can take to help keep Michigan’s waterbodies clean and healthy. Crews provide extensive outreach materials, including but not limited to brochures, swag, and activities for children. The mobile boat wash units are made up of a trailer mounted pressure washer, vacuum, and a containment mat to catch water runoff during the wash. These mobile boat wash units travel across the state, helping local lake associations, watershed groups, non-profits and local governments keep their waters free of aquatic hitchhikers.

Black rectangular tarp utilized for mobile boat washing stations to catch contaminated water runoff. Black tarp is at boat launch in parking lot.
The Mobile Boat Wash sits ready for boaters to approach for a free boat wash to rid of any aquatic hitchhikers at Orchard Lake in Oakland County. The black mat keeps contaminated water from re-entering the waterway. Photo from Kelsey Bockelman.

Why is this program important?

Not only does the Mobile Boat Wash Program teach boaters to properly clean, drain and dry their vessels, but it empowers local communities with materials and activism to teach visitors to help promote the “Clean. Drain. Dry.” mission. Oftentimes boaters aren’t familiar with what invasive species are present in local lakes, rivers, and streams and the adverse effects that invasive species can have. Each season, this program continues to create and expand long-term relationships with Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMA’s), lake associations, and local Michigan communities.

What kind of results do we see from the mobile boat wash events?

This past 2022 season, the two mobile boat wash crews acted in full force after two years of reduced outreach due to COVID-19 restrictions. The crews were able to attend 43 mobile boat wash events across Michigan. This included a local bass tournament in Gladwin, Michigan, all the way to Keepers of the Shiawassee Riverfest event in Linden, Michigan, where our crew members were able to teach youth about the importance of cleaning off boats after a cardboard boat race that took place. The children and adults alike took the demonstration to heart and are now advocates for the “Clean. Drain. Dry” mission. During these 43 events, 133 boats were washed, 579 boater contacts were made, and 238 volunteer hours were put in. Over 60 boats had aquatic hitchhikers attached and we were able to provide real time education of how to properly clean their vessel.

How do I schedule a mobile boat wash event at my local lake?

When considering scheduling a mobile boat wash event for the 2023 season, make sure to reach out to schedule a date early next year as the mobile boat wash calendar does fill up quickly. Saturday and Sunday events are most popular, due to the boat and recreational traffic on the weekends. But regardless of the day, requesting the crews to come out to your local waterbody is a great way to protect our lakes and natural resources. We largely work with lake associations and local CISMAs but are open to most lakes as long as space and mobility are plentiful. To find out more about scheduling and protocols, click here to find out if the mobile boat wash is right for you and your lake!

Program recognitions

MSU Extension is leading the effort to implement the Mobile Boat Wash (MBW) program in cooperation with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE). MSU Extension’s Mobile Boat Wash began in 2014, and is a sister program to the Clean Boats, Clean Waters program. The MBW program is entering its 8th full season this year and continues to grow as an effective and free aquatic invasive species prevention resource thanks to funding from the Huron – Manistee National Forests of the U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture. The MBW travels across Michigan each summer decontaminating boats and providing education on the Clean, Drain, Dry mission.

More information on the Mobile Boat Wash and Clean Boats, Clean Waters programs can be found on the MSU Extension website, Facebook (@MichiganCBCW), or Instagram (@michigan_cbcw). Questions about the MSU Mobile Boat Wash program can be directed to Kelsey Bockelman,

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