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Indiana Natural Resources Commission

NRC > Lake Michigan & Other Navigable Waters Lake Michigan & Other Navigable Waters


The Department of Natural Resources is the state agency with "general charge" over navigable waters. The DNR (together with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management) is a primary state permitting authority for activities within the legal boundaries of navigable waters. The DNR has responsibilities for construction, mineral extractions and water withdrawals, boating, environmental protection, and cultural resource preservation.

Navigable waters are those that were "susceptible" to boating "according to the general rules of river transportation at the time Indiana was admitted to the Union [1816]."

The Natural Resources Commission has developed websites to improve the understanding of public use of navigable waters.

Navigable Waterways Roster
A general discussion of legal navigability and a listing of waters that have been determined to be navigable or nonnavigable.

Marine Sanitation Devices on Navigable Waters
Regulation of marine sanitation devices (MSDs) and where properly functioning Type I or Type II MSDs may be used in Indiana's navigable waters

Navigable Waters Rules Annotated
An unofficial and nonbinding guide to how navigable waters law has been administered in Indiana, particularly with reference to NRC rules.

Indiana Lake Michigan Underwater Archaeological Resources Project
A steering committee of local citizens with special knowledge of maritime history and shipwrecks, together with government professionals, was formed to provide guidance and support for the Indiana Lake Michigan Underwater Archaeological Resources Project.   

Lake Michigan Boating Law and Other Information
Lake Michigan Boating Law and Other Information

Responsibilities for the regulation of navigable water are assigned by the Indiana General Assembly in statutes and implemented largely through rules. The Natural Resources Commission adopts permanent rules, and the DNR Director adopts temporary (or emergency) rules. Rules have the force and effect of law.

Permanent Rules

The Commission rules governing navigable waters are primarily set forth in two areas.

  • 312 IAC 5 Rules governing boating
    Examples include standards for what life preservers must be carried onboard a vessel and areas where boats are prohibited (sometimes called "no-boat zones").
  • 312 IAC 6 Rules governing construction activities, mineral extractions, and the protection of "cultural resources"
    Examples of regulated construction activities include the placement of seawalls and beach nourishment. Sand mining is regulated. A shipwreck is an example of a cultural resource.

Other Sites Dedicated to the Indiana Waters of Lake Michigan